ICYMI: Maine Speaker of the House Mark Eves Urges Passage of Medicaid Expansion Bill LD 1546 (Video; Text)
(On Wednesday (5/29/13), the House is expected to take up LD 1546 again in an evening session. Here again is the floor speech of Speaker of the House Mark Eves (D-N Berwick), urging his colleagues in the House join him in supporting this important bill. ~AP)
(Over 50 clips of individual House members rose to deliver testimony both in support and in opposition last night, as the bill LD1546, “An Act To Strengthen Maine’s Hospitals, Increase Access to Health Care and Provide for a New Spirits Contract” got its first reading and roll call votes in the House. More to follow. ~AP)
Below is the full text of Speaker Eves’ remarks as prepared and released to media. Note: House Majority Leader Seth Berry (D- Bowdoinham) served as Speaker Pro Tempore. Video link here.
- “Thank you Mr. Speaker pro-tem.
Ladies and gentlemen of the House, I rise this evening to speak to an issue of great importance to me, and to the people of the state of Maine.I rise to speak in favor of the pending motion to accept the majority ought to pass as amended report, and by doing so, accept a comprehensive measure that would make a final payment on Maine’s hospital debt and reduce future hospital costs by accepting federal health care dollars to cover tens of thousands of Mainers.
Today lawmakers have an opportunity to pay back the debt owed to our hospitals and contain the rising costs of health care for our people and our hospitals.
We have an opportunity together to do three things in one bill:
Help our hospitals, help working Mainers who need health care, and help our economy.
For 4 years, I served on the Health and Human Services Committee where we would consistently hear about the amount of charity care and bad debt the hospitals absorbed and then shifted onto working families with insurance and onto Maine businesses.
When people without insurance get sick, they often end up getting care in the emergency room — where it is the most costly, least efficient way of providing care. Just last year, the Maine Hospital Association reported that Maine hospitals provided $450 million dollars in charity care and bad debt.
The hospitals can not afford this and neither can we!
In the proposal before us, not only do we pay back our hospitals, but we also ensure that thousands of Mainers can see a doctor when they are sick. By doing so, we reduce the charity care costs and bad debt that are cost drivers for our hospitals. This is a win for our hospitals and for every family in Maine who has insurance today.
For several months, we’ve talked about the nearly 70,000 Mainers, many of them who are working but can’t afford health insurance, who would be eligible for coverage under this legislation.
The number is so large and has been repeated so often, it’s easy to forget what it actually means.
We could cut the number of people in Maine without health insurance in half.
Seventy thousand people: That’s equivalent to the population of Aroostook County. Or Somerset and Piscatiquis counties together.
The county by county numbers are compelling.
Residents and hospitals in Maine’s most rural counties have the most to gain.
· In Washington: 2,601 people would gain health care;$9.3 million in economic activity
· In Somerset: 3,590 people would gain health care; $12.9 million in economic activity
· In Waldo: 2,629 people would gain health care; $9.7 million in economic activity
· In Oxford: 3,806 people would gain health care; 13.7 million in economic activity
· In Aroostook: 4,615 people would gain health care; 16.8 million in economic activity
· In Piscataquis: 1,067 people would gain health care; $4.0 million in economic activity
· In Franklin: 1,878 people would gain health care; $6.9 million in economic activity
· In Knox: 2,317 people would gain health care; $8.6 million in economic activity
· In Hancock: 3,235 people would gain health care; $12.9 million in economic activity
· In Lincoln: 1,817 people would gain health care; $6.6 million in economic activity
· In Androscoggin: 5,829 people would gain health care; $20 million in economic activity
· In Penobscot: 8,447 people would gain health care; $31.6 million in economic activity
· In Kennebec: 5,997 people would gain health care; $20.8 million in economic activity
· In Sagadahoc: 1,456 people would gain health care; $5.3 million in economic activity
· In Cumberland: 12,018 would gain health care; $46.6 million in economic activity
· In York: 8,196 would gain health care; $29.7 million in economic activity
Now think of one of those 70,000 Mainers. Take Marie from Bangor. She has a part-time job that doesn’t provide health insurance. She also has a serious heart condition that doesn’t allow her to work full time. Without health insurance for her or her family, she is forced to choose between putting gas in her car and paying her medical and utility bills.
This is not a hypothetical scenario. They are the hard facts for too many Mainers. And THIS is an ethical and moral dilemma for all of us.
Unfortunately, Marie is one of tens of thousands of Mainers – many of your constituents – who are unable to afford health insurance.
The personal stakes are high for thousands of people who could receive life-saving access to health care. But there is also a tremendous opportunity for our entire state.
The Maine health care economy is the largest single job provider in the state of Maine. Healthcare jobs account for 1 in 4 jobs in Maine. By accepting these federal health care dollars we will inject $250 million dollars into our health care economy, creating more than 3,000 jobs.
It is estimated that Maine hospitals would receive $163 million each year in additional revenue if we were to accept the federal dollars. This will help alleviate the current burden hospitals are facing and make sure we prevent future debt from accumulating so that we avoid a situation like this in the future.
Maine’s hospital debt is a symptom of our high health care costs.
This comprehensive measure pays the debt and helps fix the underlying problem that contributes to high health care costs in the first place. We don’t just treat the symptom; we treat the problem.
The federal government has agreed to fully cover the cost for health care for tens of thousands of Mainers for the next three years, and gradually lowers its payment to no less than 90 percent of the cost over a decade. There is no cost to the state — in fact, we will save money.
Maine is projected to save $690 million in the next 10 years if we accept the federal dollars, according to the nonpartisan Kaiser Foundation. These numbers are also confirmed by the conservative Heritage Foundation.
We are one of 10 states that will actually see our Medicaid expenditures go down!
If we want to save money in our Medicaid account, which I believe we all do, we must accept these federal health care dollars.
This could change the lives of tens of thousands of Maine people who fear getting sick because they can’t afford to see a doctor when they need it most.
Accepting these federal funds to increase health care coverage for more working Mainers is morally and economically the right thing to. And it makes sense to do it as part of a comprehensive package that repays Maine’s hospital debt. It both addresses the costs of health care for our hospitals and our people. To do one without the other, would leave the job half done.
It’s a good deal. One we cannot walk away from!
That’s why Republican governors across the country have sized up the proposal and have decided to accept the funds.
Republican Governor Jan Brewer of Arizona has said turning away federal Medicaid dollars would increase human suffering and further cripple hospitals and other health care providers that care for the uninsured.
Gov. Brewer recently said, “Being governor is tough — you have to make tough decisions and you have to look at the whole state, you have to do what’s right. Without expansion, “we would’ve had to go in and get people off of Medicaid, they would still be in our hospitals, you would still be paying for them.”
Gov. Brewer’s bill to accept these federal dollars is accurately called the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment Measure. Gov. Brewer gets it!
In New Jersey, Republican Governor Chris Christie has made a similar case:
He said in a speech before the legislature unveiling his budget. “It’s simple. We are putting people first.”
“Expanding Medicaid is the smart thing to do for our fiscal and public health” and will “ensure New Jersey taxpayers will see their dollars maximized.”
Gov. Christie gets it!
This should not be a political issue. We all agree we should pay the hospitals.
But we are at an impasse over health care for tens of thousands of Maine people.
The members of this body have a choice to make. Will you support a plan that pays the hospitals and accepts federal health care dollars to cover more Mainers? Or will you chose to deny and delay health care for tens of thousands of Maine people — putting politics ahead of the people’s health and our hospitals?
I urge you to see this for what it is — a compromise that would benefit the state as a whole.
This is how state government should function.
In a divided government, neither party can get anything done by demanding all or nothing.
I urge you to join me in supporting the pending motion. Now is the time to act.