Connecticut Recovering Drug Costs From Elderly Estates

Hundreds of low-income elderly and disabled people have dropped out of Connecticut's discount prescription drug program after learning that the program allows the state to recoup expenses from program recipients' estates, according to an Associated Press article.

The drug program's estate recovery provision is similar to laws that allow Connecticut and other states to recover costs for programs like Medicaid and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, formerly known as welfare.

But Donna Folkemer, a health care analyst for the National Conference of State Legislatures, said dipping into someone's estate to recover costs associated with a state prescription drug program for seniors is unprecedented. "There isn't any other state that has done this," she said.

The new statute applies to about 45,000 low-income seniors and 6,000 disabled individuals who participate in ConnPACE, a state prescription drug program. The program offers prescription drugs at reduced prices to seniors and disabled individuals who make less than $20,300 a year (or married couples with less than $27,500 in income).

"This is like a lien on my house," said Rita Stauffer, 70, who has spent more than $1,100 on prescription drugs since July. So far, 321 ConnPACE beneficiaries have dropped the program, according to the state Department of Social Services.

The state General Assembly approved the new statute in August to help close a $1 billion budget gap.

"We may have to go back and examine this in the next session," said Marc Ryan, Connecticut Gov. John G. Rowland's budget director. "I don't think we have to totally retreat from it though."

For the Associated Press article in the online edition of The Hartford Courant, click here. (Article may no longer be available.)