In a State House hearing dedicated to creating a state safety net should President Donald Trump succeed in gutting the Affordable Care Act, a group of elderly activists made their case for protections from debilitating medical expenses.

The Legislature's Health Care Finance Committee heard several bills at their Tuesday hearing asking for the state to codify protections and benefits now, before Republicans in Washington can strip federal health care dollars from the state. State protections won't be able to make up for missing federal dollars, but health care activists hope the Commonwealth will stand by commitments with its own state tax revenue.

A bill boosted by the Massachusetts Senior Action Council would allow Medicare recipients just above the federal poverty line into some state benefit programs and bar the state from applying an asset test to determine eligibility, letting impoverished elderly people with homes in their name or other assets take part in some programs for the poor.

Mattapan's Edna Pruce is 84 and described what she says a lot of elderly people go through when they age out of the regular MassHealth program, lose a lot of their coverage and end up with fewer benefits on Medicare.

"In Massachusetts, when lower income seniors turn 65 and go on Medicare, we fall off a cliff. We fall off a cliff," Pruce said.

"Seniors are the only group in Massachusetts that face an asset limit for MassHealth. The limit of just $2,000 for an individual and $3,000 for a couple, counts everything, even the cash value of a life insurance policy," Pruce said.

For the past several years, the state has struggled with the expanding cost of MassHealth, its Medicaid program for the poor. House lawmakers last week voted to let Gov. Charlie Baker explore ways to cut back on MassHealth enrollment, but did not support his proposal to penalize employers that don't offer insurance, an attempt to crack down on low wage workers skipping employer-based health insurance in favor of state subsidized care.