Archive for May 24th, 2013

(UPDATED) Despite Hours’ of Administration Testimony with Appropriations Cmte, Governor LePage Insists on Injecting Self into Legislative Process

Posted on May 24, 2013. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , |

UPDATED: Late Friday came word that the Governor now intends to be the one to testify before Appropriations in the future- and no one else from his administration:

paul staring at camera

    Gov. Paul LePage has instructed state department commissioners to stop appearing before the Legislature’s budget-writing committee.

    If someone from the administration is asked to speak before the committee, according to the governor’s office, it will be LePage himself.

    The administration’s order is in direct response to a clash last Sunday when the committee’s Democratic chairwoman refused to let LePage address the members.

    House Speaker Mark Eves, D-North Berwick, condemned the move on Friday, while a LePage spokeswoman said it should not affect the committee’s work and the administration will provide all necessary information to lawmakers.

We are in unchartered waters, people…

===

Wow. Someone in the Executive branch seems to have some difficulty with understanding how Maine’s co-equal 3 branches of government as per our state’s Constitution works, ie, Article III, that “Executive = Legislative = Judicial”, let alone that his role in the process DOES have limits in power.

But, this is hardly news to anyone around Augusta… and now hardly news to the Feds as well.

48 hours after he tried to open a concluded work session he tried to gate-crash, the Governor has issued the following statement to Appropriations via press release:

    Governor to Appropriations Committee: Mainers cannot afford a tax increase

    AUGUSTA – Governor Paul R. LePage released a statement today after the Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee refused to let him speak at an emergency meeting held Sunday to discuss a shortfall in welfare spending.

    100_5379“I wanted to tell the Appropriations Committee that I sent a balanced-budget proposal to the Legislature that did not require supplemental budgets or increased taxes,” said the Governor. “I also submitted a bill to pay the hospitals, which could have saved jobs and put Mainers to work. But Democratic Legislative leadership and the Dems on the Appropriations Committee are playing games.

    “Instead of taking care of the 3,100 disabled and elderly Mainers on a waiting list for MaineCare services, Legislative leadership is trying to tie another expansion of welfare to paying the hospitals. They have rejected all of my proposals to crack down on welfare fraud, and they are pushing for a budget that will have to be paid for with tax increases. I told them months ago that the supplemental budget was not balanced, but they passed it anyway.

    “Leadership has shown that it does not care about Maine taxpayers. They are determined to grow government, expand welfare and raise taxes on hard-working Mainers to pay for it all. As your Governor, I will not raise taxes. And I am not going to shut down government. That is up to the legislature.

    “My commissioners have worked long and hard to come up with budgets that make tough choices and face financial reality. The Appropriations Committee has treated them and the Office of the Governor with disrespect when we have explained that Maine taxpayers cannot afford another tax increase. If the only way I can make them understand that is for me to testify before the committee myself, then that’s what I will do.”

An interesting claim by LePage…

Here again is the video clip of Governor LePage attempting to interrupt the concluded first portion of Sunday’s Appropriations Committee work session.

Now, here is where it gets interesting- at what point “had the Administration not been entertained”, as the Governor claimed on Sunday? Or does he really see himself- and ONLY himself– as “The Administration”??

Let’s review. Here is the beginning of Sunday’s work session that started at 1:45pm, with 23:51 recorded:

DHHS Commissioner Mary Mayhew Testifies Before Appropriations (Part 1)

Here is the conclusion of Commissioner Mayhew’s testimony with another 19:36 for DHHS/ the Administration to be heard:

DHHS Commissioner Mayhew Concludes Her Testimony; Governor LePage Enters Appropriations Hearing

And here is the testimony of Commissioner Millett- so add another 21:33 to the tally.

Financial Services Commissioner Millett Testifies; Governor LePage Listens From Audience

One doesn’t have to be a member of Appropriations to work these numbers! Both commissioners were allowed as much time as they wanted to use; at no point were either restricted from speaking freely to the committee.

agenda afaWant a second source? Well, probably not the best available, but there was my first UStream recording attempt; there are 3 clips here for review, starting at 1:44 pm and concluding just past 3pm. The last one (45:40) captures not just the conclusion of Mary Mayhew’s testimony and all of Sawin Millett’s but also (and arguably most importantly) what exactly transpired at the conclusion of that portion of the work session between AFA Chair Senator Dawn Hill and Governor LePage.

It is clear- the work session agenda item focusing on FY13 Medicaid Shortfall had concluded. The Governor tried to inject himself into the legislative portion of the budget process. And unlike the last time he did so in January 2012, this time he was correctly denied the opportunity to do so.

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Maine Governor Paul LePage Vetoes LD 1546, Medicaid Expansion Bill (Video)

Posted on May 24, 2013. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , |

At a Hall of Flags ceremony surrounded by GOP legislators, Governor LePage on Thursday signed the letter to veto LD 1546, characterizing LD 1546, “An Act to Strengthen Maine Hospitals, Increase Access to Health Care and Provide for a New Spirits Contract,” as “tied payment of the hospital debt to welfare expansion” and then announced plans to reintroduce his own bill in its place.

    “Democrat leadership has spent the past week forcing this bill through the legislative process, over the objections of Republicans and Democrats alike. This unadulterated partisanship tied two different issues together in a quest to force welfare expansion upon the Maine people. I have said all along this bill would receive a veto when it reached my desk, so this letter should be no surprise.

    That is why I have filed a Governor’s bill today reflecting the parts of LD 1546 we all agree on—paying the hospitals and ensuring the liquor business provides the best return for the state—without the forced expansion of MaineCare. The Legislature will have the opportunity to vote up or down to pay the hospitals—I trust you will do the right thing.”

Press secretary Adrienne Bennett provided copies to the press of the letter the Governor read.

lepage veto lettr

The governor then informed those assembled of his plans to continue to hold the voter-approved bonds hostage unless his bill is passed through the Legislature, in what a press release categorized “a gesture of good faith”:

    The Governor also directed the State Treasurer to prepare the voter-authorized bonds for his signature. “I will sign them as soon as this new Governor’s Bill is enacted,” the Governor stated.
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Maine State Rep. Helen Rankin (D-Hiram) Speaks to Colleagues in Support of LD 1546: “From My Heart to Yours”

Posted on May 24, 2013. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , |

This floor speech (VIDEO) by Rep. Helen Rankin was not prepared in advance, but rather delivered from the heart from some notes, during Tuesday evening’s debate on LD 1546, “An Act To Strengthen Maine’s Hospitals, Increase Access to Health Care and Provide for a New Spirits Contract”.

100_5488In her address to her colleagues, Rankin speaks of being a child of the Depression, of losing her older sister at a young age due to the family’s inability to receive health care, of her mother working three jobs to provide for the family, of her own long life of good health and unexpected quadruple bypass this past year. She spoke of the wonderful life-saving treatment she received, due to being able to access health care, and concerns for those who do not have the same ability to access it as she and the House members can.

Her conclusion: “Please take advantage of this wonderful opportunity. I say that from my heart, to your heart.”

*Related:

Maine Speaker Of The House Mark Eves Urges Passage Of Medicaid Expansion Bill LD 1546 (Video; Text)

Floor Speech Of Rep. Drew Gattine (D-Westbrook) In Support Of LD 1546: Making The Case To Accepting Federal Funds

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Floor Speech of Rep. Drew Gattine (D-Westbrook) in Support of LD 1546: Making the Case to Accepting Federal Funds

Posted on May 24, 2013. Filed under: Uncategorized |

(In addition to the below floor speech shared as prepared for delivery, Rep. Drew Gattine (D-Westbrook) rose to address questions raised by LD 1546 opponent Rep. Deb Sanderson (R-Chelsea) video here; his response can be see via this link. ~AP)

    Floor Speech of Rep. Drew Gattine (D-Westbrook)– Accepting federal funds (VIDEO)

    drew gattineThank you Mr. Speaker and Women and Men of the House.

    It is an honor to rise and address this body on this historic day. I can’t imagine that we will be asked to address legislation that will do more good for more people who need help. We also won’t be asked to pass legislation that will have a greater benefit for Maine business and Maine workers.

    We have opportunity to not only close the chapter on the outstanding hospital payments but to also simultaneously show the people of Maine that we as a legislature are serious about fixing the fundamental problems in how we finance and deliver health care.

    The opportunity before us will do so much for so many

    – It will pay back the hospitals for services they provided going back to 2009
    – It will provide tremendous economic benefits to Maine businesses and Maine workers
    – It will strengthen our MaineCare program by replacing General Fund Dollars with Federal Dollars

    Most important it will provide the benefit of good health and economic security to 70,000 Mainers who work hard but cannot afford health insurance.

    Paying the hospitals is a high priority. Providing health care is morally imperative.

    Economic Benefits

    We know why this makes sense for Maine businesses and Maine workers. Accepting federal funds is pure and simple economic stimulous that will interject $250 million into Maine’s economy and create 3,100 new jobs. This money isn’t cash assistance or direct payments to those on public assistance. These are payments to health care businesses, large and small, in cities and in rural areas.

    Hospitals are big winners in this equation and this is why Maine’s hospitals support both parts of this plan – they get paid back the money they are owed and they receive an addition $168 million annually to offset the cost of free care they currently provide. Hospitals in Maine provide $450 million each year in charity care and uncompensated bad debt. As we know – and as we’ve read in the paper recently regarding Maine’s largest hospital– this has an extremely detrimental effect on revenues and hospitals’ bottom lines. It also drives the need for hospitals to seek higher reimbursement from large payers – Medicaid, Medicare and Private insurance – cost shifting drives up the cost of health care and that cost is ultimately passed on to businesses and consumers.

    Strengthen MaineCare

    Accepting federal $$ will strengthen MaineCare and other health care programs and an independent study shows that will save Maine over $690 million

    – We will receive 100% federal funding for newly insured Mainers
    – We will receive 100% federal funding for some people currently covered at only 62%
    – We will even receive 100% federal funding for some services that are currently being funded with 100% state dollars – including costly Mental Health Services and services paid for by the Department of Corrections
    – We will receive federal funding for medical costs now being covered by general assistance

    The fiscal note for accepting federal funds is $0. The benefits will more than offset any modest administrative costs.

    Why we should move hospital payment and accepting federal $$ forward together

    I keep hearing people question why we are moving these issues forward together. Asking “why link them”. I think those people have got it backwards. Outside of this building, out in what some people refer to as “the real world”, these issues are linked – only in the arcane world of party politics and legislative procedure would we even think about “de-linking” them.

    Over the past 10 years I’ve had the opportunity to work for some of the largest health insurance companies in the country. If I had a $460 million problem with a key business partner – and believe me hospitals are among the most important partners to our MaineCare program – and I went to my CEO and said we were going to pay them their $460 million the first question my boss would ask me is “how can we make sure that we don’t have that problem in the future”. If my answer was “gee, I know how to fix it going forward but I’m not going to do that right away” – she’d look at me like I was crazy and she’d probably fire me.

    Insuring 70,000 additional people, reducing charity care in our hospitals and injecting $250 million in stimulus makes good business sense and we need to take advantage of this opportunity now.

    We Can’t Delay

    We cannot afford to delay, the offer is time limited – three years beginning January 1, 2014. Barely seven months away. We know from the Department that they need time to get ready – they need to enroll people, they need to modify their systems. This will take time and DHHS has delayed so much at this point that time is not on our side. We cannot afford to run out the clock on this session and not have this done. We don’t need to study this, we have the answers we need, the feds have told us what we need to do and we just need to get it done.

    Federal Commitment

    There’s a lot of questions being asked about the federal government’s commitment this program. People ask “how can we trust the federal government to keep its commitment”? These people want you to believe that the federal commitment is at risk. This is a smokescreen.

    – What those people don’t want you to know is that the US Government has never failed to keep its commitment to Maine, not in the 48 year history of the Medicaid program. It has never missed a payment
    – What those people don’t want you to know is that the general formula used to compute federal match hasn’t changed in decades and that in 2015 Maine’s regular match rate is scheduled to go up
    – What those people don’t want you to know is that the last time the federal government offered the states a large boost in the match rate (under ARRA), not only did they keep that commitment but they extended the enhanced match rate by an additional six months.

    The facts and the history demonstrate that the federal commitment to this program is unwavering since it began back in 1965.

    Good for Maine People

    I represent Westbrook and Westbrook is a lot like the districts many of the rest of you represent. It’s a great town and if you don’t spend a lot of time there I encourage you to come visit. When we leave here in a few weeks and go home I’ll be spending a lot more time in my town. Like many of you I’ll be home this weekend marching in my local Memorial Day Parade. And next fall, for one reason or another, I’ll be walking in neighborhoods meeting people, knocking on doors and checking in on folks. When I’m out and about in Westbrook I don’t come across too many rich folks. I don’t come across too many upper middle class folks. Most of the people who I represent are hard working Maine people who have been hit hard in the past few years and haven’t really recovered from the recession. They work hard but they don’t have jobs that provide insurance. They can’t afford thousands of dollars for premiums and deductibles and co-pays and they certainly can’t afford to get sick. They can’t afford to pay doctors and hospitals and pharmacies and at the same time pay rent, shop for groceries and purchase heat.

    My point ladies and gentleman is that if we don’t pass this legislation and accept this money what am I going to say when I go out and talk to people this summer and fall? What am I going to say when they ask

    “Hey Drew – I’m working hard and I can’t afford to get sick and my family could have had health insurance 100% funded by the federal government. What happened? How come all these other states are covering their people but Maine isn’t? How come every state in New England is helping their people but Maine isn’t?

    Western States like California, Oregon and Washington. Midwestern states like Michigan, Illinois, Ohio and Minnesota? Southern states like Kentucky and Tennessee and Florida? States with Democratic Governors like New York and states with Republican Governors like New Jersey? The list goes on and on – why are these states helping their folks get insurance and Maine isn’t?”

    What am I going to say? What are each of you going to say?

    “We didn’t provide you with fully funded health care because we needed to study it?”

    “Gee, we couldn’t find a way to provide you with a family doctor, but we did find a way to pay the hospitals $460 million!”

    “Don’t worry, if you get really sick and think you might actually die you can always go to the emergency room and the hospital will stabilize you and provide free charity care?”

    Can any of us really fathom going back to our communities and having these conversations? Each of us needs to think about why we were elected and why we are here.

    I’ve only been here a short period of time and who knows how long how long I’ll be honored to serve the good working people of Westbrook. I could serve here a long time and I cannot imagine I will ever have the opportunity to cast a vote that will have such a dramatic positive impact on the people I serve.

    The time is now, the opprtunity is before you. Be on the right side of history. Slam the door shut on the problems of the past and give hope and security to 70,000 hard working Mainers. Support the majority report and vote ought to pass.

    Thank you Mr. Speaker.

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Welcoming New Link, “Line Items”- Important Blog Page via Maine Center for Economic Policy

Posted on May 24, 2013. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , |

mecepLink here to site; here is a bit of their latest share, an important analysis with recommendations to lawmakers regarding LD 90, “An Act To Strengthen Maine’s Workforce and Economic Future” by Judy Harris: “Workforce bill helps adult learners, but does not go far enough” (emphasis mine).

    “A select committee of the 126th Maine Legislature set out to attract adults with prior education credits back to school. An Act to Strengthen Maine’s Workforce and Economic Future (LD 90) creates a UMaine scholarship program for adults to finish their baccalaureate degrees, expands community college associate degree programs, and eases the transfer of credits between the two. It also establishes a task force to find ways to increase adult degree completion rates. The House and Senate both unanimously passed the bill, which will jumpstart new careers for an estimated 2,300 working Mainers, raise incomes, and provide needed workforce skills for today’s economy.

    The committee is to be commended for their vision, hard work, and bipartisanship. Clearly LD 90 will help improve job prospects for many Mainers who, with a university education, can compete for better-paying jobs. Yet, low-income adults will have difficulty taking advantage of the bill’s good intentions.

    Maine’s Competitive Skills Scholarship program (CSSP) does just that. CSSP provides grants to low-income students not only for tuition and books, but also for child care, transportation, and family emergencies critical for them to enter and stay in school. CSSP makes higher education accessible to low-income, working Mainers.

    Unfortunately LD 90 does nothing for CSSP, which is proposed to be cut in the governor’s budget.

    We applaud the efforts of the legislature’s workforce committee. We support its ongoing work. We urge it to take a second look at CSSP.”

Many thanks to MECEP for their excellent work and to Ms Harris for this important write-up.

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Maine State Reps Sirocki (R-Scarborough), Malaby (R- Hancock) LD 1546 Opposition Speeches (Video; Text)

Posted on May 24, 2013. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , |

(NOTE: Representative Heather Sirocki (R-Scarborough shared the texts of these prepared speeches last night on my personal FB wall; sharing here with the videos taken from the floor of the House. ~AP)

FLOOR SPEECH OF REP. HEATHER SIROCKI (R-SCARBOROUGH) (VIDEO)

    Mr Speaker, Ladies and Gentlemen of the House,

    I rise in strong opposition of the pending measure.

    Some may feel that combining bills from different committees is an efficient way to move forward, but the People of Maine are ill-served by considering legislation without input from the public.

    The question was posed, “ Is this bill properly before the body?”

    We were told that a public hearing was held. But I checked online, and found that no public hearings were scheduled.

    Before casting votes, most of us listen to testimony, read and research the issue, and consider the views of our constituents. I do not like being asked to pass bills first before I find out what is in them.

    LD 1546, the bill before us, did not follow the usual path of thoughtful consideration.

    The process of working this bill has been violated at its most basic level…two bills combined into one that did not receive any input from the public. As a matter of fact, there is not one piece of public testimony posted for this particular bill. Not one.

    There are, however, 69 documents of public testimony on the Medicaid expansion bill. But the Health and Human Services Committee is the only committee to have heard from the public regarding the expansion of Medicaid.

    I am very uncomfortable knowing that the sitting members of the Veterans and Legal Affairs committee, the committee of jurisdiction for this bill, have not had the opportunity to seek public input on this very important portion of LD 1546.

    Mr Speaker… How can we vote to move this bill forward when the process has been violated in this manner?

    Ramming a bill through a committee where the members did not have the opportunity to even read about the details, and where they did not hear even ONE minute of public testimony, is wrong.

    This violation of the process at the committee level is unacceptable.

    Regarding other reasons to vote No on this bill, let’s start with fiscal irresponsibility.

    Negotiating the liquor contract is time sensitive. If we miss the deadline, it will cost Maine’s hardworking taxpayers an additional $5 million. The clock is ticking.

    If we had paid our hospitals as the debt accrued, we would have been able to take advantage of a higher federal dollar match rate.

    My back-of-the- napkin calculations show that this delay has already cost us tens of millions of dollars.

    Thus, if we miss this deadline, that number bumps an additional $5 million.

    Let me repeat – tens of million dollars.

    Money that we could have spent towards services for … perhaps… disabled individuals who have been placed on waitlists.

    Mr. Speaker you are correct this is a moral and ethical issue.

    Mr. Speaker, I implore this body to recognize that the expansion of Medicaid is a separate bill with a separate timeline. Currently, that bill sits on the table in my committee- the Health and Human Services committee. The expansion should not be rushed. As a matter of fact, it is in Maine’s best interests to take our time, because rushing the expansion, may in fact, cost us more money, potentially, a lot more money. An audit is currently underway and is expected to be complete within a month. We do not have firm promises from the federal commission of health and human services yet.

    I urge each member of this body to think carefully before voting today.

    Please recognize that LD 1546 should go back to its roots. We need to bifurcate LD 1546. These are two separate bills, the one that was assigned to the Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee and the other bill to consider expanding Medicaid, which still sits on the table over in the Health and Human Services committee, where it rightfully belongs.

    For these reasons I cannot support LD 1546.

    We need to pay our hospitals now.

    We need to take our time negotiating with the federal government on further expansion of Medicaid.

    Two separate bills.

    Two separate time lines.

    Two separate votes.

    Thank you.

FLOOR SPEECH OF REP. RICHARD MALABY (R-HANCOCK) (VIDEO)

    Mr. Speaker, Ladies and gentleman of the House, I rise in opposition to the pending motion.

    As a member of the Joint Standing Committee on Health and Human Services, I would love to see that everyone in Maine with an Income below 138% of the Federal Poverty Level has true health insurance. It would likely save money for our health care providers and would hopefully improve health care outcomes. Who could not vote for that?

    Unfortunately that is NOT what we are voting on. The Medicaid Expansion under the Affordable Care Act is neither Health Insurance nor is it fiscally responsible for the state of Maine.

    Medicaid and our healthcare delivery system are clearly broken. And more of the same won’t fix it. Expanding Medicaid is the wrong prescription for a broken system and a faulty diagnosis invariably leads to the wrong treatment. Medicaid needs to be reformed prior to any expansion. We need to design a system that aligns consumer actions with societal goals while decreasing costs……… increasing access ……..and promoting quality. The bill before us will increase access at the expense of increasing costs and will do nothing to promote overall quality.

    I would gladly vote to reform Medicaid, a program designed in 1965 and rife with perverse incentives both for the consumers and the providers! I just can’t see how burdening the people of the state of Maine with hundreds of Millions of dollars of ongoing and future expenses for a program with no demonstrated efficacy in terms of health care outcomes is going to help anyone. At its very heart Medicaid encourages people to over consume and undervalue health care. With no copay or premium for health care in a system with unknown prices or information about quality is it any wonder that health care costs keep rising out of control? And isn’t that our real problem?

    Likewise Medicaid encourages providers to overbill for services. If patients are not paying for the health care services they receive, then they are unlikely to shop for quality and value. Consequently providers whether hospitals or doctors have no incentives to keep prices low in order to compete-as in any other market place- and hence the provider is incented to maximize their revenue and income based on the reimbursement model. Isn’t that why we owe our hospitals $484 Million for 2009 and 2010? And why is is that this bill requests $490.2 Million dollars when we owe the hospitals $484 Million? Is it the intent of the sponsors to repay the debt after October 1, thereby receiving $5 million less in FMAP match? Is that not irresponsible?

    The previous Medicaid expansions in which eligibility had been increased and optional services added currently costs the state of Maine $177 Million annually in General Fund dollars. Those who urged the past expansion of Medicaid promised it would reduce the number of the uninsured, reduce charity care, lower ER usage and have low and predictable costs. In reality health care costs have grown 4 times the rate of inflation, enrollment has exploded, there has been a gigantic increase in charity care and programs are now “capped” as the state has no money to pay for those seeking services. The state has even started to tax hospitals and nursing homes in pursuit of those federal dollars. I find that incredibly shameful.

    I support paying our hospitals that which we owe them. The state made a deal and the hospitals have lived up to their end of that bargain. I would support a true health insurance program for our low income population, but insurance is something you buy in a competitive market place where prices are known and competition is real and buyers shop based on value and price. I can’t support the poorly conceived expansion of Medicaid now being urged by so many. Expanding a financially failed program simply does not make sense.

    The hard working Maine taxpayers understand that we need to control spending. It is our job as legislators to prioritize our spending needs. What about all those people we currently have on waitlists for services who legally and morally deserve those services? The expansion will not address their needs. I am embarrassed by our inability to take care of the truly needy. Prioritizing spending during tough economic times requires leadership. For too long we have taken the easy way out by saying yes to more and more federal dollars. This has resulted in a never ending cycle of growing waitlists for our disabled population, increased pressure to repeatedly raise taxes, ongoing and annual supplemental budgets and crowding out of the true investments the state should be making. It is time to say no.

    Thank you Mr Speaker.

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