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

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[…] It started with the reintroduction of a pair of Medicaid expansion bills offered by Speaker of the House Mark Eves (LD 1578) and Senate Majority Leader Troy Jackson (LD 1640). […]

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I agree.maine needs there own health care..many vets. Elderly .disabiled .and unemployed have no voices and no choices…

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