Weekly Address of Governor Paul LePage: Protecting Maine’s Most Vulnerable
(This week’s address is a video rather than audio. ~AP)
Many of us in Maine were born into tough circumstances. With the help of friends, family and mentors and a whole lot of hard work, we created a better life for our children and ourselves. To those who have achieved success, I applaud you. I will continue to ensure you are able to live, work and be prosperous in Maine.
However, far too many people are slipping through the cracks. While government cannot be all things to all people, I do believe Mainers should have access to a safety net when they need it most. Right now, some of our most vulnerable Mainers are not being served.
Welfare programs in the State of Maine account for hundreds of millions of dollars. My Administration is advocating for a quality safety net. However, with less and less money coming from the federal government we must prioritize.
Maine has been more generous than most other states when it comes to Medicaid, Maine’s welfare program – we are already well beyond the eligibility levels required by the Affordable Care Act. But as more people become eligible for services and utilize those services at growing rates, our ability to control costs relies on making strategic cuts so that we can continue to serve those most in need.
Maine, like many other states across the country, has asked for waivers from the Federal government so we can serve the people of Maine who are most vulnerable. But, unfortunately, election year politics is getting in the way of finding solutions in Washington.
With fiscal challenges, Maine has had to prioritize programs and services, and last session the Legislature approved reductions in eligibility to our welfare program. These cuts affect 19 and 20 year olds who are able-bodied, and reduce coverage for non-pregnant and non-disabled adults.
Three months ago, Maine asked the Federal government to allow us the flexibility to help those who need it most. Federal law provided the Obama Administration a 90 day time span to make a decision. To our dismay, the Federal Government delayed responding to our request until the 86th day. On the 86th day, we received a letter asking 3 simple and, frankly, irrelevant questions which are clearly meant to stall the process. They now have reset the clock for another 90 days to respond.
I don’t care if the federal government is trying to wait out an election. Maine needs and deserves answers now.
The inflexibility of the Federal Government is out-of-control. Our most vulnerable are not being served in a timely, responsible manner. For example, there are Mainers who are disabled on waiting lists who desperately need services while able-bodied adults receive free health care from you – the taxpayer.
Every month these changes are not implemented we are losing nearly two and a half million dollars. The inflexibility from the federal government is driving our welfare program to insolvency.
To compound the problem, the previous administration withheld payments owed to hospitals to try to keep our welfare program afloat at the sustainable levels. Maine owes hospitals more than $460 million dollars.
Please call your representatives in Washington and demand that the Federal Government puts politics aside and address the needs of our most vulnerable. We are simply asking Washington to follow the wishes of the State of Maine Legislature. Maine needs flexibility to manage our own welfare programs and the time to act is now.