Archive for January 16th, 2014

Senate Majority Leader Troy Jackson (D-Allagash) Introduces LD 1640 to HHS Committee (Video; Text)

Posted on January 16, 2014. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , |

The second bill that came up for public hearing yesterday before the HHS Committee was presented by Senate Majority Leader Troy Jackson. His bill, LD 1640, “An Act To Enhance the Stability and Predictability of Health Care Costs for Returning Veterans and Others by Addressing the Issues Associated with Hospital Charity Care and Bad Debt”, is designed to address the specific needs of Maine’s service members and other Mainers who find themselves excluded from the existing Affordable Care Act. Here is video of the senator’s address to the committee and his prepared speech.

(Note: As access to healthcare for all Mainers has long been a personal cause for Senator Jackson, he went off script on occasion to stress the need.)

    TESTIMONY FROM SENATOR TROY JACKSON IN SUPPORT OF LD 1640 AND 1578

    My name is Troy Jackson. I am from Allagash and I am the State Senator representing District 35, the northern most part of Aroostook County. I also serve as the Senate Majority Leader.

    I am the primary sponsor of LD 1640 and a co-sponsor of LD 1578, Presented by Speaker Eves. These bills will secure $263 million dollars from the federal government to expand Medicaid coverage to 69,500 hard working, deserving Mainers – including veterans. Right now these mainers face a future without health insurance and without adequate access to necessary, healing and life-saving medical care.

    troy hhsI want to remind this committee and all of my colleagues in both parties in the house and the senate that these bills represent our last chance to do right by Maine people and families who depend on our actions. If Governor LePage had not vetoed LD 1066 last year – or, if the legislature had stood up and over-ridden that veto – we would already be moving toward the goal of a unified, fair and open health care system for all Mainers regardless of income.

    Making public policy relies on both common sense treatment of facts and figures and on political philosophies. We know the governor’s philosophy. He called this effort to expand healthcare in Maine – and I quote from his veto message: “a massive increase in welfare expansion.”

    Let me be clear: health care is not welfare
    — not to me and not to a single one of the 69,500 mainers who will be left out in the cold if we do not bring them into our healthcare system.

    No – health care is not welfare. Health care is a basic necessity of life like food and shelter and fuel. Health care is a basic right.

    But I am not here to debate philosophy.

    I am here to push for action because time is running out to extend help to 69,500 Mainers who desperately need our leadership. If we do not expand Medicaid in Maine we will be failing as leaders. That failure would be wrong-headed and hard-hearted. It would be a heartbreaking tragedy for thousands of working Mainers and their families.

    troy standYes – working Mainers. The majority of people waiting to learn if they will have health care coverage do work.

    Sixty five percent of Maine’s uninsured live in a family where someone works full-time. And I want to emphasize that: full time.

    Full time in retail jobs, food service and restaurant jobs; full time in our hospitality industry; full time in office jobs, in manufacturing and construction, in transportation. They work full time on the waterfront and on our farms and in our forests. You and I – we all know them: they’re our friends and neighbors and family members.

    The next time you pay your bill at the local diner or a fancy restaurant, look your waiter in the eye and know this: that person is probably relying on you to offer help with health care.

    The next time you go through the grocery line and tell the cashier to have a nice day, that person is waiting to be covered by MaineCare.

    The next time you go to a local farmer’s market and buy local, that farmer and his workers are waiting for your decision to include them – not exclude them – from Maine’s health care system. And their children and loved ones are waiting, too.

    I would refer you to reports and analysis compiled by the Maine Center for Economic Policy for a clear sighted view. And I will highlight some of the findings that we must consider and weigh in order to make common sense public policy.

    And it is pure common sense to take the opportunity we have right now and accept federal funds to expand Medicaid in Maine, to help those working Mainers who find themselves locked out of access to health insurance and to take the next step toward a unified, fair health care system open to all Mainers.

    What is that opportunity?

    First: accept $263 million dollars of federal funding in order to close the coverage gap and insure Mainers who could go uninsured if we do not say yes to the federal government’s offer.

    That money will allow us to potentially cut in half the number of uninsured Mainers.

    So if you earn less than $15,856 on your own as an individual, or if you are the bread winner of a family of three earning less than $26,951, you will be eligible for Medicaid in Maine. You will gain access to a basic right.

    Second: let’s understand the reality of our State and act so we can both expand Medicaid coverage and provide a measure of fairness to rural Mainers. Many, many more working Mainers who may lose coverage and go without live in our most rural counties.

    If we do not expand Medicaid, we will penalize rural Mainers and undermine efforts to revive Maine’s rural economy.

    If we do not expand Medicaid, we will divide Maine yet again and increase the gap between haves and have nots, between rich and poor, south and north, urban and rural.

    The loss of basic health insurance would be crushing to individual families living in rural Maine, to businesses in rural Maine and to the very health care system designed to provide medical care. We must open our eyes to this reality.

    Let’s keep in mind – let’s always keep in mind – that our neighbors, friends and family members are those who are relying on us. These working Mainers are not statistics. They are individuals with a common need: healthcare coverage and medical care.

    But facts and figures do guide us to understanding what is best if we just say yes to medicaid expansion.

    For example, in Washington County more than 13% of people from age 18 to 64 will become eligible for Medicaid. And Washington County could receive more than nine million dollars to fund that expansion. In Somerset, 11 percent become eligible and the County receives more than twelve million dollars.

    In Waldo, almost eleven percent will get covered and the County gets almost ten million to help. In Androscoggin, 8.6 percent and twenty million get help. In Penobscot, 8.3 percent and thirty one million. In Aroostook 10.6 percent and sixteen million.

    The money available from the federal government goes into our State economy, creating jobs and generating state and local taxes. The money not only helps people in need, the money helps to expand Maine’s whole healthcare economy. In Penobscot, Androscoggin, Aroostook and Washington Counties as many as one in five jobs are in health care related businesses and services.

    Many of these jobs are held by women whose families rely on their earning power. According to the National Women’s Law Center, Medicaid-supported jobs held by women in Maine amount to more than 17,000 – and this number will increase when we say yes to Medicaid expansion in Maine.

    Third: The Federal funds that we accept to expand Medicaid bring healthcare and healthy benefits to working Mainers and to our economy. I’ve talked about the direct economic benefits from our decision to expand Medicaid. And there is the benefit that matters most to working people: more days on the job, earning a wage, making ends meet and fewer days off the job because they can’t afford medical care or receive ongoing care for chronic conditions or injuries.

    At a time when unemployment in rural Maine is chronically high, when low wage jobs offer little hope of economic security, with the minimum wage stuck in low gear, failure to expand Medicaid in Maine will add another strain on the budgets of working families. Failure to expand Medicaid will unfairly penalize rural Mainers and women who work in Medicaid-supported healthcare jobs. Failure to expand Medicaid will force Maine families to make terrible choices between basic necessities: food or fuel? Shelter or medical treatment? A warm winter coat or a drug prescription?

    To me, all of this makes our choice clear: just say yes to Medicaid expansion in Maine.

    Fourth: There are 2,700 veterans in Maine who would become eligible for care when we expand Medicaid. Don’t assume that all veterans young and old automatically receive care through the Veterans Administration. If we do not expand Medicaid, veterans will lose out – and perhaps live out their days without a basic right they fought for: and that’s the right to healthcare.

    troy pointFinally let me say a word about Medicaid. There is little or no administrative fat to cut in Medicaid. Ninety-six percent of Medicaid spending goes to pay for health care and long-term care for Maine people – not for administrative overhead. Medicaid works to control healthcare costs for all of us.

    A failure to expand this program here in Maine will mean that older people, working people, low-income children, individuals with disabilities and even returning veterans will have no where to turn but the emergency room. Or worse, they will put off care and suffer pain and ill health silently, without complaint. Is that right?

    Especially when every lawmaker in Augusta has access to government funded health insurance?

    Will we ask working Mainers to take a dose of Yankee stoicism because we won’t use common sense and offer a little Yankee practicality? That’s what it comes down to.

    Accept the Federal Government’s offer of help, and use $263 million dollars to cut in half the number of uninsured Mainers.

    Use this money to bolster our State economy, and to provide access to a basic right.

    Act now because 69,500 Maine people we know – who live down the road or around the corner, whose children go to school with our children, who sit in the pew every Sunday in church with us, who work with us, who are a living, breathing vital part of our communities – act now because these Mainers are relying on our leadership.

    Thank you and I urge you to move this legislation forward as rapidly as possible.

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Speaker of the House Mark Eves (D-N Berwick) presents LD 1578 Expanding Federally Funded Health Care in HHS public hearing (Video; text)

Posted on January 16, 2014. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , |

Yesterday Speaker of the House Mark Eves (D- N Berwick) presented his bill, LD 1578, “An Act To Increase Health Security by Expanding Federally Funded Health Care for Maine People” before the Health and Human Services Committee in a packed public hearing. Here is a clip of his address to committee members and released text of his prepared remarks.

    Testimony in Support of LD 1578, “An Act To Increase Health Security by Expanding Federally Funded Health Care for Maine People”

    Good morning, Senator Craven, Rep. Farnsworth and members of the Joint Standing Committee on Health and Human Services. It’s a great privilege to be before you today to present my bill to accept federal health care dollars to cover 70,000 Maine people, including nearly 3,000 veterans.

    LD 1578 would provide life-saving health care to tens of thousands of Mainers. It directs the state to accept 100 percent federal funding to cover more Maine families under the Affordable Care Act.

    This is an unprecedented bargain for the state. It’s a good deal. Not only would it provide critical care to Mainers in need, it would also save money in the state’s general fund and generate hundreds of millions in economic activity. The federal government would literally pick up the tab for state programs, freeing up state dollars for other key programs.

    eves cmteNow more than ever, it is critical for Maine to accept these federal dollars. On Jan. 1 — only a few short weeks ago — nearly 25,000 Mainers, including nearly 15,000 working parents whose children depend on them to stay healthy to go to work each day, are losing their health care. They lost this care for one simple reason: because the state turned down this bargain from the federal government.

    Like so many of you, I hear from constituents on different issues. Earlier this week, I had a heart breaking call from a woman, Amy, whose family had lost their health care in January. Her husband is a type-1 diabetic and they simply couldn’t afford to fill his insulin prescription. They went to the pharmacy at Shaws and it was $203.00 per bottle. She was scared. Her husband needs his medicine, but they don’t have an extra $400 to $600 a month to pay for his critical insulin. She works and so does her husband. She doesn’t want a hand out, but her employer doesn’t provide health insurance and she can’t afford to buy private insurance.

    Amy is not alone. There are hundreds of people just like her, whose lives have changed because of decisions we make in this building every day. You will hear from many of them today. We are talking about life-saving health care. I urge you to really listen.

    Over the past few months, I’ve worked to address some of the concerns I’ve heard from lawmakers. This bill is tri-partisan –it has four Republican co-sponsors, one independent and five Democrats.

    It includes good-faith effort to bring all parties together:

    ● A sunset provision after 3 years, prior to the decline in federal funding to 90 percent.

    ● An opt-out provision if the federal government breaks its commitment before the 3 year period

    ● It requires a co-pay from individuals utilizing the program.

    ● Creates a MaineCare Stabilization Fund to pool savings accrued from accepting the federal dollars

    This is a true compromise.

    I am ready and willing to consider any idea that will allow this life-saving care for Maine families to move forward. It’s too important. Too much is at stake. We can do this if we turn down the rhetoric and the politics and look at the facts:

    Speaker of the House Mark Eves and Senate Majority Leader Troy Jackson wait before presenting their bills before HHS Committee.

    Speaker of the House Mark Eves and Senate Majority Leader Troy Jackson wait before presenting their bills before HHS Committee.

    And these are the facts.

    Maine could prevent around 395 deaths per year by accepting federal funds. (Harvard Study) and we will lose out on millions of dollars if we don’t (RAND Study). We have an opportunity to save our state more than $600 million dollars by accepting these funds (Kaiser).

    These are facts from non-partisan; independent research institutes.

    With each day that passes, Maine loses out on an additional $700,000 per day, $500 per minute totaling 250 million a year.

    Maine will miss out on as many as 4,400 jobs and over half a billion dollars in annual economic activity by 2016 (MECEP).

    Many of the people who could get health care if we accept these funds are Mainers who work at low-paying jobs in our grocery stores or construction sites or home care providers that don’t get health care benefits through their jobs. There are even veterans whose ailments aren’t covered through the VA.

    We can truly put aside partisanship to accept federal dollars to increase access to healthcare for working people in our state. Republican and Democratic governors across the country have done it.

    In closing, I would like to echo the words of the Maine Hospital Association in a recent OpEd in the KJ, “Mainers routinely support initiatives to fund highway and clean water projects with federal match rates far below 90 percent, and we see no reason to forgo this level of funding just because it’s health care. If this were an opportunity for federal dollars for a ship at Bath Iron Works or a defense contract or for highways and bridges, we would be jumping at the opportunity and celebrating.”

    This is an opportunity that we should not pass up. Increasing access to healthcare for more Maine people is the right moral and economic thing to do.

    Thank you for listening. I’d be glad to take questions at this time.

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