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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