Murphy and Caligiuri pledge to preserve senior benefits

CHESHIRE–Chris Murphy and Sam Caligiuri both told seniors Friday they want to preserve benefits promised to the elderly while cutting health care costs, but the two 5th District Congressional candidates had different approaches to the job.

Caligiuri, the Republican nominee and a state senator from Waterbury, told the audience at Elim Park assisted living that something needs to be done to ensure the federal government can afford the promises they have made to seniors for health care and long-term care. He said the best way to do that is to reduce federal spending.

“We have to prioritize what we are spending money on,” he said, adding that he would not support cutting senior citizens’ current benefits. “I would not vote in favor of cuts where we have already made commitments.”

Caliguiri and Murphy

Sam Caliguiri and Chris Murphy, at right, talk with senior citizens in Cheshire

Caligiuri said he opposes the sweeping health reform law, calling it too expensive and too burdensome for businesses, and said he would do whatever he could to repeal or defund it.

“That law is the wrong way to make costs go down,” he said, adding he does support the idea of “money following the person” to wherever the senior citizens decides to live, be that a nursing care facility or at home for needed services.

Murphy, the Democratic incumbent, said the federal health reform will reduce costs once fully implemented, which should make it less expensive for the federal government to pay for senior citizens’ health care and long-term care.

“I wish everything could be better right away,” Murphy said, asking the audience to be patient to see the impact of the federal law. He also dismissed Caligiuri’s claims that the law cuts Medicare by $500 billion. “That’s just not true.”

For Ken and Gerry Milhous — a couple living at Elim Park – the candidate’s position on health care and long-term care will likely be a deciding factor for whom they vote for.

“We saved our whole lives to retire, and those funds were gone like that. Something needs to change because that’s just not right,” Gerry said.

“I feel a special sense of duty to stick up for these long-term care facilities,” Murphy said, saying facilities like Elim Park, which houses almost 300 seniors, have been “dramatically underfunded” by the federal government.

“As people are aging, we are going to have more costs,” he said during an interview after the forum. Murphy also said he supports more federal funding be allowed to be spent for at-home and community-based care programs. Providing home-based care will allow seniors to put off entering expensive nursing and assisted living centers. “Not everyone belongs in a nursing home.”

recent study found that while the federal government pays about half the costs of long-term care in the state, almost $1.3 billion, little of the money can be used for at-home care.

“Medicaid has made access to institutional care easier than to home and community-based care. Largely, this is a result of federal Medicaid rules and regulations,” the report says.

The federal health reform law passed earlier this year did create a voluntary insurance program that would help pay for non-medical services not covered by Medicare, to keep those with disabilities at home longer.

Fred Beck, 80, said his arthritis kept him from doing the daily essentials like cooking, cleaning and laundry. Had there been money for him to hire help he may have put off moving into assisted living from his Hamden home for a few years.

“I didn’t want to burden my family by asking they do all that stuff,” he said.