Approximately 800-1200 Mainers came together at a rally on the steps of Portland City Hall today, one of dozens of similar events across the country, urging Congress not to scrap the Affordable Care Act. Here is full video of the event:
Maine Senate Democratic Leader Troy Jackson of Allagash, who has been a strong advocate for healthcare over the years, gave an impassioned speech:
Prior to the rally, Congresswoman Pingree met with almost a dozen constituents at a round table discussion inside City Hall. She told those gathered that they were among over 1000 families that had written to her recently, urging that she vote to save the Affordable Care Act.
Video here of the round table.
From left to right:
1. Daniel Brouder of Cumberland Foreside
2. Emily Ingwersen of Arundel
3. Lynda Bond
4. Katie MacDonald of Portland
5. Congresswoman Chellie Pingree
6. Alyra Donisvitch
7. Briana Volk of Portland
8. Andrew Volk of Portland
9. Ruth Dean of South Portland
10. Mary Henderson of Topsham
UPDATE: A bit of quick background on this post. While Mainers knew that Tea Party Maine Governor Paul LePage, who won election in 2010 with 38% of the vote, was virulently anti-ACA and fought hard against multiple attempts to expand Medicaid in our state (to date, five bills have been vetoed and then sustained by the GOP in the Legislature), many did not know to what extent the LePage Administration worked or what steps lead to where we found ourselves last week as news of the #LePlagiarism scandal first broke. Thus it became necessary to piece together all of the various known elements and create this timeline, illustrating who Gary Alexander is and how he became known to the administration (LePage in 2011 first offered him the DHHS position that eventually went to Mary Mayhew), as well as the various actions taken by the Governor and his staff.
A year ago, most in Maine had no idea never heard of Gary Alexander. That is no longer the case, as now federal authorities are now looking into the matter.
It is later (2012) used as a cited source in Pacific Research Institute president and CEO’s Sally Pipes’ e-book, “The Pipes Plan: The Top Ten Ways to Dismantle Obamacare”. Pipes, a well known critic of the Affordable Care Act, goes before Congress’ House Oversight and Government Reform Committee to denounce ACA and is found by Mother Jones investigative reporting to have much of her and PRI’s supposed works to be that of ghost writers:
- If Pipes seems supernaturally prolific, there’s a good reason. To assist with her written output, PRI employs a DC-based ghostwriting and PR firm with drug and health care industry clients. That firm, Keybridge Communications, researches, drafts, and edits much of Pipes’ published work in an arrangement that’s unusual for someone at a supposedly independent think tank.
Several former PRI staffers tell Mother Jones it was well known within the organization that Pipes relied heavily on Keybridge, particularly for her books, and did far from all of her own writing.
- Elena Nicolella- the director of RI’s Medicaid program- says there’s very little in Alexander’s report that’s accurate. In fact, it was published without the permission of the Department of Human Services, even though the state seal appears on every page of the report. Nicolella says RI asked The Galen Institute to take that seal off, but it hasn’t and she’s considering a call to the state’s attorneys.
- … a spokesman in Chafee’s Health and Human Services Office said officials there do not know how Alexander came up with that number, and could not give their own.
“The secretary of Health and Human Services is currently reviewing the assumptions, accomplishments and savings projections associated with the global waiver,” spokesman David Burnett said in a statement last week. “Without a detailed understanding of the author’s assumptions, it is difficult to offer a comment on the veracity of the statements contained in the Galen Institute article.”
- … a report by RI’s former secretary for the Executive Office of Health and Human Services raised some eyebrows a few weeks ago for making unauthorized claims about RI’s Global Medicaid Waiver. His report appeared on the website of the free market think tank the Galen Institute.
But now it appears that there were two reports- the current one posted in January and another, featuring stronger language and some different numbers, posted at some point last year.
- “The only thing that I’ve heard is if you take a plastic bottle and put it in the microwave and you heat it up, it gives off a chemical similar to estrogen. So the worst case is some women may have little beards.”
On that same day it is reported that Dr. Dora Mills, the former head of Maine’s Center for Disease Control, was fired from her post as Medical Director of MaineCare. Mills had testified months earlier that BPA removal should be a priority under the Kid-Safe Products Act of 2008. Soon afterwards, other senior DHHS appointees as fired as well.
- While legislators unanimously praise Mayhew’s intelligence and toughness, some Democrats opposed her nomination because of her lack of experience managing people and money.
“She has never managed a budget, and it’s a $3.2 billion budget,” said Sen. Margaret Craven, D-Lewiston, one of three Democrats who opposed Mayhew’s confirmation in committee. “She has 3,500 employees … She’s very smart, but smart isn’t going to do it all the time.”
Mayhew’s role as a hospital lobbyist and her lack of experience with social services and welfare programs also raised concerns.
“I think that is her job — to stand up for the vulnerable people,” Craven said. Craven and others said they worry that Mayhew’s lack of experience will make it harder for her to stand up to political pressures to cut safety net programs.
- The Rhode Island agreement shares the same goals as the block-grant plan proposed by Representative Paul D. Ryan, Republican of Wisconsin, and contained in the budget resolution that passed the House last month, said Conor Sweeney, a spokesman for Mr. Ryan.
During a Senate Finance Committee hearing in February, Senator Tom Coburn, Republican of Oklahoma, also pointed to the experiment in Rhode Island as a success.
“Why don’t we just block-grant every state, take the rules off and let them do these strategies,” he asked. “Rhode Island’s obviously already figured it out.”
Among the governors who support the idea are Chris Christie of New Jersey, who wants to pursue an agreement of his own with the federal government, and Scott Walker of Wisconsin, who wrote an article for the Op-Ed page in The New York Times last month contending that states’ success with such agreements “shows that we can move beyond demonstration projects and let the federal government relinquish control over Medicaid.”
The article also made note of the multiple versions of Alexander’s report, huge mathematical shifts in projected savings without explanation and that there was no transparency in how or why the numbers changed:
In an early version of the paper, Mr. Alexander said that Rhode Island had saved about $150 million during the first 18 months of the agreement. A later version lowered the estimate to $110 million. The paper does not detail how he arrived at those numbers, nor does it explain the reason for the change.
“Why Rhode Island is the Model for the Nation”
Gary D. Alexander, Health Reform Report, 09/10/11
Gary Alexander, who was secretary of health and human services when the waiver was approved, published a paper with the conservative Galen Institute, pegging the savings at $110 million over 18 months, or $73 million a year.
The Romney campaign cites the Alexander paper as evidence that Rhode Island saved money.
The liberal-leaning Center on Budget and Policy Priorities issued a report saying Alexander was wrong because any savings actually resulted from more than $400 million Rhode Island received in federal stimulus money in 2009 and the shifting of some costs previously paid by the state to the federal government.
Rhode Island’s current Health and Human Services secretary, Steven Costantino, asked The Lewin Group, a consulting firm, to do a less-partisan analysis after Carcieri left. According to that group’s estimates, the waiver itself saved $23 million over three years, or $7.6 million annually, Costantino said.
In addition, the deal also provided a $42.7-million windfall for the state over the same three years because the federal government started sharing the costs of some health services, he said.
Total savings per year: just under $22 million.
- “The federal government seeks to entice Pennsylvania and other states into expanding their programs by promising to pay all the upfront costs during the initial years and then pulls back in the outlying ones. However, this promise is not altogether true. The head of the Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare, Gary Alexander, testified before a congressional committee last month that the expansion would cost $222 million to the state taxpayers in administrative and other costs during the first year, $378 million the second year and $364 million the third year, rising to an estimated $883 million by fiscal year 2020-21.”
- The Arkansas News reported on Tuesday that the former secretary’s firm, Alexander Group LLC, was awarded a $220,000 contract to conduct an independent review as lawmakers there consider an alternative to the proposed Medicaid expansion.
Alexander’s firm was chosen because of its national reputation, according to the report. In addition to serving in the Cabinet post in Pennsylvania, Alexander previously had served as secretary of Rhode Island’s Department of Health and Human Services.
However, some members of the panel that hired Alexander’s firm had concerns about how independent Alexander would be in conducting the Medicaid expansion evaluation since their review found him to be critical of President Obama’s health care law while he was serving as Pennsylvania’s welfare secretary.
- Marty Garrity, director of the Bureau of Legislative Research, informs me that Alexander HAS completed a report for the $220,000 he was paid. He submitted it July 5. It’s substantial, maybe 75 to 100 pages, she said.
It remains secret. It is classified as a legislative “working paper” until a committee of the Legislative Council reviews it. Alexander is expected to appear to talk about it when and if that day occurs. It’s currently in the hands of the executive committee of the council, co-chaired by Sen. Paul Bookout and Rep. John Edwards. I’ve been unable to get an indication so far of plans for release.
Within the contract are specific dates as to when information by the consultant would be released, specific work to be performed by the Alexander Group, and that the group is required to maintain a Liability Insurance policy to protect against lawsuit costs.
Completion of the final report is to be by 3/15/14.
Payment for the work would come from the following sources:
1. State General Funds $454,875.17
2. Dedicated/ Special Revenues $276,644.83
3. Federal Funds $193,680.00
4. TANF $69,120.00
5. Medicaid Admin (et al) $124,560.00
- Alexander’s hiring has also put LePage on the defensive. In December, the governor sought to distance himself from the no-bid contract, telling WABI-TV in Bangor, “I don’t know, I didn’t hire him (Alexander), DHHS did … I don’t know much about what they did, so.”
Emails obtained by the Press Herald through a Freedom of Access Act request show that the governor personally endorsed the contract.
On Sept. 25, Mayhew notified LePage’s assistant that the contract had been finalized. In a hand-written note atop the email, the governor wrote, “Go for it!”
- The work will include a study of the optional Medicaid expansion that has been offered to the state as part of ObamaCare. The study will include an assessment of the financial impact of Medicaid expansion in both the short- and long-term, as well as the impact on other state priorities, including those currently served by MaineCare. The study will also consider potential areas of flexibility for the state, which may include requests for additional flexibility from the federal government to manage MaineCare by state rules instead of federal regulations.
DHHS and the Alexander Group will undertake a complete assessment of all welfare systems within DHHS to determine how program reforms and additional flexibility can add efficiency, improve patient outcomes and achieve cost savings. A focus of this work will be reducing waitlists and providing appropriate services for the elderly and disabled.
“We are excited about the opportunity to work with such a knowledgeable group of experts,” said Mary Mayhew, the Commissioner of DHHS. “In the constantly shifting landscape of the Affordable Care Act and ever-changing rules from Washington, it will be extremely helpful to have someone with significant Medicaid experience lending a hand to our program reform efforts.”
It is learned that Sam Adolphsen, a former staffer at the Maine Heritage Policy Center who now works in the governor’s administration, will be one of the state’s designees to work with the Alexander Group. Adolphsen’s background is in business administration, not social services or health care. He would be named in the contract as the person responsible for the monitoring the performance. In 2014, he would be promoted twice more within DHHS and be named DHHS chief operating officer in May 2014.
- The committee will have the opportunity for the first time, to examine the nearly $1 million, no-bid contract the LePage Administration signed with Gary Alexander from the Alexander Group. The contract includes the issuance of a five part study reviewing the impact of expanding the state’s health insurance program, Medicaid under the terms of the Affordable Care Act. The first study was due on December 1 but Alexander missed the deadline and to date has not submitted the report as stipulated in the nearly $1 million contract.
“For the price of Governor LePage’s Tea Party crony, the state could have hired 23 people at Riverview— and we’d be one step closer toward getting recertified and recuperating the $20 million we’ve already lost,” said Craven. “Decisions like these do nothing to help the people of Maine or the financial health of our state.”
LePage said he has met with Alexander just three times: One of those meetings took place in 2010, when LePage offered the Rhode Island conservative the job as Maine’s commissioner of the Department of Health and Human Services, which the governor said Alexander turned down for salary reasons.
LePage subsequently hired Mary Mayhew, a Democrat who lobbied for the Maine Hospital Association, as DHHS commissioner.
LePage said Thursday that he also has met with Alexander twice since then; once in March and once more recently, after Alexander’s firm was hired on a nearly $1 million sole-source contract awarded by Mayhew in September.
“Alexander served as secretary of Pennsylvania’s Department of Public Welfare for just two years. He came to us from Rhode Island and was touted as an efficiency expert who would save our state millions in Medicaid dollars. Instead, we experienced just the opposite.
For example, under Alexander’s leadership, 89,000 children were removed from our health care programs, and his agency’s mismanagement of the contract to pay home care workers could cost taxpayers as much as $7 million per year.
In November 2013, my department released the full results of our independent audit of the mismanagement of the home care worker contract during Alexander’s tenure. What we found should serve as a warning to Maine taxpayers and policymakers.”
- “This report highlights the fact that Maine’s General Fund is on track to be consumed by the MaineCare program, even without expanding eligibility,” said Gary Alexander. “Expanding eligibility for MaineCare to the able-bodied residents of working age will place at risk existing commitments Maine has to their traditional Medicaid recipients: those who are disabled and those who are elderly.”
“This study reinforces the unsustainable costs associated with MaineCare expansion and the importance of returning the program to one that cares for its most vulnerable,” said Maine Department of Health and Human Services Commissioner Mary Mayhew. “We cannot, in good conscience, ask the taxpayers of Maine to foot this very large bill to care for able-bodied adults. We must prioritize spending to ensure that the elderly and people with development disabilities who are on wait lists—sometimes for more than two years—get the critical services they need first and foremost.”
Democrats on the HHS Committee had the following response:
- Fundamental flaws in the controversial Alexander report on Medicaid in Maine were exposed today during a hearing on its findings in the Legislature’s Health and Human Services Committee.
“The research was skewed. Governor LePage got what he paid for,” said Rep. Dick Farnsworth of Portland, the House chair of the HHS committee. “We are looking at getting to real data that will give us real insight. We do not find it in these results which have become campaign talking points masquerading as a report.”
“The report recommendations are not a surprise. This is nothing more than a campaign plan for Governor LePage. Unfortunately, the taxpayers of Maine paid for it,” said Senator Margaret Craven of Lewiston, the Senate chair of the HHS committee. “Let’s get beyond campaign issues and move on to the real issues — like getting 70,000 Mainers including 3,000 veterans access to life-saving health insurance.”
Farnsworth noted that the governor spent nearly $1 million in taxpayers dollars for the Alexander Group report when reliable data from independent sources confirms savings.
Governor Paul LePage awarded the controversial consultant Gary Alexander the $1 million no-bid contract last September despite Alexander’s record of mismanagement and failed policies in Pennsylvania. As the head of the Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare, Alexander cost Pennsylvania taxpayers $7 million and took healthcare away from 89,000 children.
During the hearing, non-partisan representatives from both the Maine Hospital Association and from Maine Equal Justice Partners echoed lawmakers concerns about the errors and assumptions in the report.
No-bid contracts in Maine must meet certain criteria as noted in the state’s “Sole Source Justification Guidelines”:
- 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.
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.
Both bills would pass the Legislature, be vetoed by the Governor and have that veto sustained later in session.
- “This week our Administration provided Mainers and lawmakers The Feasibility of Medicaid Expansion under the Affordable Care Act. If Maine opts to expand Medicaid as it did 10 years ago, the report estimates it will cost the state more than $800 million—and that’s without additional risk factors. It does not include the hundreds of millions of dollars that will be shifted onto the middle class who buy their insurance. This will cause private insurance premiums skyrocket.
The report also predicts between 31 and 36 percent of all Mainers will be receiving taxpayer-funded health care by 2023. In other words, for every three Mainers, one will be on Medicaid at the taxpayer’s expense.
The funny thing is that the guy who wrote the report has been very successful in getting the federal government to work with states on improving its Medicaid program. So, why aren’t liberals listening to what he has to say?”
- The document appears to have been edited to present a more seemingly detached analysis of the Medicaid expansion equations. The most politically sensitive passages were softened or removed outright: Sections outlining poor health care outcomes for those enrolled in Medicaid were trimmed or stricken, as were segments and a related appendix outlining the political breakdown of Medicaid expansion, noting “there appears to be a partisan pattern on how states are deciding to expand.”
An initial version even suggested that considering expansion at all was a waste of time.
Alexander originally wrote that, given the current level of spending on MaineCare, “there seems to be little point in talking about the expansion scenario that significantly increases costs and accelerates the cost growth rate.” That passage was removed in the final report. Other language changes in the report de-emphasize forecasts that may bring into question efforts by Republican LePage to create jobs and grow the state’s economy.
The first draft calls the dramatic increase in Maine’s poverty rate “phenomenal.” The final report referred to the increased poverty rate as simply “one causal factor” driving Medicaid growth.
The final version of the report thanked DHHS Commissioner Mary Mayhew and her entire staff, and made clear the impact the department had on the study. Alexander wrote that the department contributed not only data necessary for analysis, but recommendations on the report itself, which were included in the final draft.
- On Feb. 11, DHHS spokesman John Martins emailed Mayhew, Sam Adolphsen, the deputy finance director, and Nick Adolphsen, a legislative liaison. He discussed a memo from Erik Randolph, a member of the Alexander Group, that presumably defended the Medicaid study. Sam Adolphsen wrote Friday that he liked the memo, but questioned whether the agency should wait for the “next attack” to make it public.
Martins replied: “We are succeeding on all fronts on getting the expansion message out and the focus on the (Alexander Group) report has died down.”
Martins went on to request “quotable and reliable data” to support the administration’s claim that Medicaid expansion recipients could qualify for subsidies in the federal health care law. He noted that communications directors “across the state have been asked to do (newspaper opinion columns) regarding the impact of Medicaid spending on their programs.”
He concluded: “We haven’t lost anything – we have this (memo) ready for the next salvo – but I think if we have data, especially data that we can report as new, Commissioner, we can accomplish your message objective without tying it to the (Alexander Group) report.”
- “In a day when governors and legislatures need more resources for priorities that benefit all citizens, such as education and transportation, the promising of a bigger stream of federal revenue may be too enticing to forgo.
Yet a recent economic forecast and risk analysis we conducted for the state of Maine flatly contradicts that glowing assessment, suggesting that the hope of using Medicaid expansion to solve state budget woes is as empty as President Obama’s promise that “if you like your health care plan, you can keep it.”
Ten-year projections made on the basis of current expectations reveal that even if the state were to expand Medicaid eligibility, Maine would continue to experience rising rates of poverty and increases in both median and per-capita income.”
- “Medicaid now consumes 25 percent of all General Fund revenue. If liberals succeed in expanding welfare again, Medicaid will devour 45 percent of the General Fund.
State government has already eliminated or reduced funding for education, law enforcement, economic development and protection of our natural resources. Quite simply, Medicaid is cannibalizing revenue from all other state agencies.
That means the state cannot fully pay its 55 percent share of local education costs. It cannot hire more Maine State Troopers or repair National Guard facilities. The state cannot adequately promote fishing and hunting programs or conduct scientific marine research on Maine’s fisheries. The state cannot expand job-training opportunities or properly fund programs for environmental emergencies. Everything the State of Maine does is adversely impacted by Medicaid spending.”
- “We view the proposal as a step forward after months of debate over how to ensure more families can have access to a family doctor,” said Speaker of the House Mark Eves of North Berwick. “Our priority has always been securing life-saving health care for 70,000 Maine people. While we have been skeptical of managed care programs in the past, we look forward to hearing the details of the Republican proposal. We will want to make sure that the emphasis is on quality treatment; not simply denying care.”
“The people of Maine are counting on us to do right by them. They’ve put their faith and their trust in us and asked us to represent them to the best of our abilities,” said Senate Majority Leader Troy Jackson of Allagash. “Health care is a right, and lawmakers who get health care from the state should think twice before denying it to their constituents.”
The bill would ultimately fail to get past Governor LePage, the fifth attempt to expand Medicaid in the 126th Legislative session.
- Opponents of accepting federal health care funding have taken a similar approach to health care policy as they have to public opinion in Maine. With every independent study confirming that expansion will boost the state’s economy while saving lives, they needed some way to muddy the waters. Luckily, they had the perfect candidate to stir up the bottom: former Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare Secretary Gary Alexander.
Alexander is no stranger to FGA (Foundation for Government Accountability) and ALEC. In 2011, ALEC’s newsletter featured Alexander’s Medicaid privatization ideas as the #2 way to “push back against ObamaCare.” In 2012, Alexander and Herrera headlined an anti-Medicaid expansion panel discussion at the American Enterprise Institute. In 2013, Alexander joined Herrera for a conference call with FGA supporters.
“I thank you, Christie, and your great organization for organizing this,” said Alexander as they ended the call. “You guys are a tremendous repository for all of this information and I look forward to continuing to work with you as we solve the country’s most vexing problems.”
- “To my knowledge, just the report we released in January has been delivered thus far,” John Martins, a DHHS spokesman, wrote in an email message Monday.
Under the terms of the contract that report — the first of five Alexander was to deliver — was due on Dec. 1, 2013. The other portions were due as follows: two on Dec. 20, one on March 15 and the last on May 15.
The report due Dec. 1 was delivered to DHHS on Dec. 16, but was withheld from the public for more than three weeks while LePage reviewed its contents.
- One doesn’t have to read too far into the Alexander Group’s second report to the Maine Department of Health and Human Services to realize the state hasn’t gotten its money’s worth. Gov. Paul LePage’s administration spent $925,000 on a no-bid contract for the state welfare system consultant, yet it’s difficult to read the Alexander Group’s 228-page document and take it seriously.
Based on the Alexander Group’s description of its work and characterization of its own members’ credentials, you’d expect a tremendously useful report with unique insight and innovative policy solutions to some of the genuine challenges facing Maine’s public assistance programs and the low-income people they serve.
Instead, what Maine has received is essentially a research paper on the structure of the public assistance programs Maine DHHS administers, along with unoriginal policy recommendations that aren’t backed up by analysis.
“As we said over and over again, there is no free lunch. These states (Arkansas, California and Rhode Island) are facing enormous costs because of Medicaid expansion and ObamaCare. We did not want Maine to get stuck in that position. That’s why we hired a consultant to advise us on how best to manage all of our welfare programs.
The consultant just released the bulk of his report, detailing what we are doing right and what we can do to improve our welfare programs. Before they could even read it, Democrats jumped up to attack the report. They just won’t face facts.
Take time to read it before you go on the attack.”
Bangor Daily News first breaks the story in an editorial, then discusses the apparent plagiarism within the newly released portion of the Alexander Group Report, with one of those from whom the work is lifted weighing in:
- “We don’t think professional standards would include excerpting significant chunks of text without quotation marks,” said Liz Schott, a senior fellow with the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities’ welfare reform and income support division and one of the report’s three authors. “They listed text and made it appear like their own, and, yes, that appears to be plagiarism.”
It starts with a list about advantages to subsidized work programs. Then, the Alexander Group discusses the experience of other states that have started subsidized work programs. For about two full pages, pages 110 and 111, the Alexander Group uses the CBPP’s work, virtually word or word.
Rep. Mike Michaud, who is running for Governor against LePage as the Democratic nominee, takes to Twitter to blast the administration:
— Mike Michaud (@Michaud2014) May 21, 2014
Maine Democratic Party also responds:
— Maine Democrats (@MaineDems) May 21, 2014
Another victim is quoted:
LaDonna Pavetti, vice president for the family income support division of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, said Wednesday morning that in her experience, what the Alexander Group did went far beyond normal or acceptable. The BDN found that pages of the Alexander report appeared nearly verbatim from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities’ earlier study.
“I have never seen this,” said Pavetti. “It’s literally two pages of text [that were copied]. It’s not a small piece of text.”
The silence of LePage’s supporters is questioned, with millions of dollars cited as examples (“Bill Nemitz: As money goes to waste, LePage supporters’ silence is deafening”) and a quote from Alexander regarding the plagiarism charges:
“Yes, there are footnoting problems with the report that escaped our review process, but there was no intention to plagiarize,” Alexander said in an email to the Portland Press Herald late Wednesday. “The report does provide credit to the work of others but unfortunately not in the proper format. We regret the error. We will be resubmitting a corrected report.”
Late in the afternoon, LePage issues a terse statement on the Alexander Group’s plagiarism scandal:
“I am gravely concerned about these accusations and we will get to the bottom of it. Upon learning of this information today, we have taken immediate action and suspended all payments to the Alexander Group. We will continue to look into these accusations and will take further action, including termination of the contract, if warranted.”
Democrats quickly weigh in.
- Senate President Justin Alfond (D-Portland): “Mainers have been swindled by Gary Alexander and for six months, Governor LePage and his Republican lawmakers have looked the other way,” said Senate President Justin Alfond of Portland. “Undoubtedly, this discredited report is an embarrassment for the LePage administration. And Governor LePage’s request to suspend payments is small change compared to the fleecing of our state’s coffers. I urge my Republican colleagues to join me in demanding a full refund from the Alexander Group. We should not be paying premium pricing for pulp fiction.”
Speaker of the House Mark Eves: “Maine taxpayers deserves a full refund. It’s not enough to suspend payments for this flawed and controversial contractor. It’s fraudulent work. No amount fraud should be tolerated. The contract should be canceled like we have been saying since day one. This has been an egregious waste of taxpayer dollars meant only to boost the Governor’s election campaign.”
Rep. Richard Farnsworth (D-Portland), House chair of the Health and Human Services Committee and sponsor of LD 1794: “This so-called report from the Alexander Group has been a debacle from the moment the governor secretly gave this nearly $1 million no-bid contract to his Tea Party crony. The taxpayers should not have to pay a single cent for this miserable piece of work, let alone a half million dollars. The people of Maine deserve a full refund. This is not simply an oversight on the part of the Alexander Group and the administration, it is an ethical failure.”
HHS Committee member Senator Colleen Lachowicz (D-Waterville): “Friday afternoon of Memorial Day weekend news. I’m sure the administration wants this to get lost in the weekend. But remember this: there were concerns right from the beginning about how this contract was granted. The Alexander Group has never turned in anything on time. And now plagiarism. We had a bill to cancel payments for this ill advised contact because it has been first and foremost a political contract that has produced political documents. Not a wise use of our tax dollars. We couldn’t get a veto proof vote on that bill. And now this.”
HHS Committee member Rep. Drew Gattine (D-Westbrook): “As I’ve said numerous times, this all started with the procurement, which was illegal, done in secret and never should have moved forward. Gary Alexander and his “group” have no experience as consultants and our DHHS was the first state agency to ever hire them. They never would have won a competitive procurement and never should have been given a contract.”
A new analysis of the report by a plagiarism detection expert shows that many additional, lengthy sections were lifted verbatim from other sources with little or no attribution. It’s now clear that Alexander was dishonestly passing off the work of others as his own.
Sometimes, as with the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities paper, the source is mentioned, but it’s not made obvious that content was copied wholesale. This is the case on Page 134 of the latest report, which references a paper by Mathematica Policy Research and then uses text from that document nearly verbatim without acknowledging the quotation.
Similarly, on Page 43 of the MaineCare report, a footnote reads, “Most information modified from Pewstates.org information on the states,” but what isn’t noted is that most of the text on the next four pages was lifted from a specific article on Pew’s Stateline news service.
In several other cases, no attribution is given at all. This is true of portions of the reports copied wholesale from policy papers published by the Kaiser Family Foundation, the Commonwealth Fund and the University of Southern Maine’s Muskie School of Public Service, as well as text taken from a number of Maine government documents.
Examples of where Alexander simply copied his own work done in the Arkansas report are shown as well.
Later that afternoon, Governor LePage suspends payment to Alexander.
- “From day one, the Alexander contract has been highly questionable. The no-bid contract received no public review, no opportunity for legislative oversight and no adequate vetting of this contractor. Worse, it used federal funds intended to help struggling families and hungry children. This is truly a case of egregious fraud, waste and abuse of taxpayer dollars.”
They also wrote to Republican leaders:
Senate Minority Leader Mike Thibodeau (R-Waldo) issued a statement saying he had reached out to LePage’s office and had been, “reassured they are taking these allegations very seriously, are taking appropriate steps to look into their validity, and considering the appropriate course of action going forward.”
HHS Chair Rep. Richard Farnsworth weighs in:
- “This so-called report from the Alexander Group has been a debacle from the moment the governor secretly gave this nearly $1 million no-bid contract to his Tea Party crony. The taxpayers should not have to pay a single cent for this miserable piece of work, let alone a half million dollars. The people of Maine deserve a full refund. This is not simply an oversight on the part of the Alexander Group and the administration, it is an ethical failure.”
- Gerry Petruccelli, a University of Maine Law School professor who has specialized in business and contract law, said Wednesday the language in the contract between Alexander and the state was “fuzzy” enough that the state may have little legal recourse.
Meanwhile officials with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services in Boston referred all questions on the use of federal funds to pay Alexander to the Office of the Inspector General.
John Martins, a spokesman for DHHS confirmed Wednesday, that of the $501,760 that Alexander had already been paid about half of it or $249,185 was federal funds.
Phil Coyne, Assistant Special Agent in Charge of the federal OIG, HHS regional office in Boston said investigators would be reviewing the state’s contract with the Alexander Group to determine if the federal funds used to pay the consultant were used appropriately.
The governor’s press secretary responded:
- “Could there be a coincidence that Democrats are pushing out these letters days before their convention?” she wrote. “The governor will not allow politics to interfere with getting to the bottom of these allegations. As the governor has stated previously, he immediately suspended payment one week ago (Wednesday, May 21 upon learning of these claims), proper follow up is being conducted looking into the validity of these accusations, and appropriate action will be taken, including and up to termination of the contract, if warranted.”
Bennett’s statement did not specifically address whether the state had protections within the contract to recoup its money.
LePage went on the record as well:
On Tuesday, the governor released a statement to the Portland Press Herald, saying, “I will take every action we can. I am not happy about this.”
He added that the state may attempt to reclaim the $500,000 it has already paid The Alexander Group.
“It’s all a matter of the extent of what the damage is,” he said.
Audio link here; originally released by the Governor’s office for 5/21/14.
Medicaid expansion has been disastrous for other states
Democrats and their allies in the media pushed hard for Maine to expand Medicaid and add 100,000 people to our welfare system. They claimed expanding Medicaid would be free because the federal government would pay for it. They were wrong.
I vetoed Medicaid expansion five times this session because we knew that expanding Medicaid would not be free. It would cost Maine taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars over the next decade.
But don’t take my word for it. Just look at states that are now being crushed by ObamaCare and Medicaid expansion.
Arkansas expanded Medicaid the same way Maine Democrats wanted to. Already this year, Arkansas is $8 million over budget.
In California, 1.4 million more people signed up for Medicaid than they anticipated. California taxpayers are now facing $1.2 billion in unexpected costs.
Rhode Island expanded Medicaid in a way that was similar to what Democrats originally proposed for Maine. They originally estimated that 28,000 people would sign up by September. By the end of March, over 64,000 had already signed up. Rhode Island now has a $52 million budget shortfall.
Democrats claimed that expanding Medicaid in Maine would be free. But it wasn’t free after Maine first expanded Medicaid in 2002. It resulted in welfare debt of $750 million to Maine’s hospitals, and it squeezed out funding for our elderly, our disabled and our nursing homes.
Arkansas, California and Rhode Island have learned the hard way that expanding welfare under ObamaCare is far from free. The federal government will not pay for their busted budgets. Local taxpayers have to foot the bill for these financial disasters.
The rush to sign up for Medicaid isn’t the only problem some states are grappling with. Massachusetts chose to set up its own website to enroll people for insurance under ObamaCare. That website is a catastrophic failure, and it has to be scrapped.
The boondoggle will cost Massachusetts an estimated $100 million. Local taxpayers are left holding the bag for that one.As we said over and over again, there is no free lunch. These states are facing enormous costs because of Medicaid expansion and ObamaCare. We did not want Maine to get stuck in that position. That’s why we hired a consultant to advise us on how best to manage all of our welfare programs.
The consultant just released the bulk of his report, detailing what we are doing right and what we can do to improve our welfare programs. Before they could even read it, Democrats jumped up to attack the report. They just won’t face facts.
Take time to read it before you go on the attack. We must take control of our welfare program. The federal government’s one-size-fits-all approach has been disastrous in many states.
We must be able to adjust Maine’s welfare program to fits the needs of Maine people and the Maine budget.
You will hear much more about our efforts to reform welfare in the coming months. The Democrats won’t like it, but I know you will.
Thank you for listening.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
Weekly Democratic Address by Speaker Mark Eves (N Berwick): Politics Only Obstacle to Life-Saving Health Care for Maine
democratic radio message 11014-1(Audio link here)
Speaker Eves: Politics is the only obstacle to life-saving health care for Maine people
Alexander report another political excuse to deny and delay health care.
When Laura Tasheiko of Northport found out she had seriously aggressive cancer she was fortunate to get the treatment she needed because she qualified for life-saving health care through Medicaid. But earlier this month she was dropped and left without coverage as she continues her recovery from the ongoing and debilitating effects of cancer, surgery, and chemotherapy.
Like 25,000 other Mainers, Laura lost her coverage because Governor Paul LePage refused to accept federal health care dollars to expand Medicaid in Maine.
Good morning, I’m Speaker of the Maine House Mark Eves of North Berwick.
Laura’s story is one of the many reasons the Legislature will reignite our effort to make sure health care is affordable for more Maine families. Earlier this week, hundreds of Mainers like Laura rallied at the State House on the opening day of the Legislative session in support of accepting federal health care dollars to cover more Mainers.
Maine has an opportunity to accept 100 percent federal funding to provide health care for 70,000 Maine people, including nearly 3,000 veterans. We should do it.
The only obstacle standing in the way of this life-saving health care is politics.
Health care is a right not a privilege. No one should go bankrupt just because they get sick.
Accepting these federal dollars will mean life-saving health care for people like Laura. It will also save and create thousands of jobs by investing more than $250 million dollars into our state economy each year.
Plus, it will save the state money, Independent studies show the state will save $690 million dollars over the course of 10 years. Maine is one of only 10 states that will see such dramatic savings.
Now, Governor LePage and his Tea Party allies will say and do anything to stop this common sense health care proposal from moving forward.
They’ve even paid an out-of-state Tea Party consultant to produce a report opposing it. The $1 million contract went to Gary Alexander, whose mismanagement and failed policies resulted in 89,000 children losing health care in Pennsylvania and cost taxpayers in that state $7 million.
You can expect the Governor and his supporters to tout this report. I urge you to see it for what it is: Another political excuse to deny and delay life-saving health care to more Maine people.
I urge you to join the chorus of Mainers who support expanding health care. On Wednesday, Jan. 15th. a public hearing will be held on my bill to accept federal health dollars to cover more Maine people,
Lawmakers need to hear from Mainers about health care not out of state million dollar consultant.
Thank you for listening.
I’m Speaker of the House Mark Eves and I won’t stop fight for health care for the people of Maine.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
Yesterday the 126th Maine Legislature reconvened to begin the second half of the legislative session. At the same time, hundreds of people from around the state came to Augusta to hold a rally organized by Maine People’s Alliance coalition members, hear the life stories of almost two dozen fellow citizens, and urge lawmakers to support expansion of Medicare for 70,000 Mainers as part of the Health Care First initiative.
Almost two dozen came to the mic to speak at the rally; here is a full clip from the event held in the State House’s Hall of Flags.
- “As a nurse, many of the patients I see every day wait until they are so sick that we can’t help them the way that we should and their health deteriorates even more,” said Jessie Mellott, a Registered Nurse from Bangor, introducing the speakers. “They lose limbs. They may never get back to their previous health due to lack of access to care. A lot of the time, these are easy things to fix if they were addressed in time. I urge the legislature to help me care for my patients and take the important step of expanding Medicaid services for 70,000 Maine people.”
“When I found out I had seriously aggressive cancer I was able to access MaineCare and that was life-saving for me,”said Laura Tasheiko of Northport. “I was dropped and left without coverage as I continue my recovery from the ongoing and debilitating effects of cancer, surgery, and chemotherapy treatment. MaineCare is essential for the monitoring and care needed to avoid a medical crisis from medication complications, or even death, in the event of the cancer coming back.”
“Without MaineCare, my injuries will just keep getting worse and worse. I’ll just keep going until I can’t go anymore and then they’ll throw you to the wolves, I guess,”said Richard Holt, a lobsterman and carpenter living in South Portland, “I need it to make sure I can stay healthy enough to keep working for at least another 4 years before I qualify for Medicare.”
More quotes from Bangor Daily News:
- One of those speakers was Gail MacLean, who boards horses at her stable in Gray. MacLean said she has been on Medicaid for three years, but lost her coverage on Dec. 31 as a result of the state not expanding the program, known as MaineCare in the state.
“Now I’m tip-toeing around the farm, hoping I don’t hurt myself,” she said. “My fear is that if something happens, I’ll lose what I’ve worked so hard for.”
Another man, Tom Bennie, a farmer and handyman from Whitefield, said MaineCare paid for his full hip replacement in 2010, and helped his wife recover from a heart attack shortly thereafter.
“If it weren’t for MaineCare, I wouldn’t be able to stand here today,” he said. “My health is all I have. That’s the most important thing. MaineCare gave me a sense of security.”
Rep. Jeffrey Evangelos, I-Friendship, is co-sponsor of Eves’ Medicaid expansion bill, which legislative Republicans and LePage have vowed to defeat again this year. He called on the governor to follow the example of other GOP executives, such as New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer, who in their states accepted Medicaid expansion as allowed by President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act.
He called the showing by MPA “impressive.”
“I think it’s a real statement to the moderate Republicans to get on board,” he said. “If Gov. LePage vetoes this bill again, I expect them to support us in overriding.”
Later after the end of the beginning day of session, Senate President Justin Alfond and Speaker of the House Mark Eves spoke to those assembled:
- “Today in the halls of the State House, we heard why expanding health care to tens of thousands of Mainers is a top priority. The stakes are high—people’s lives and well-being are on the line,” said Senate President Justin Alfond of Portland. “Expanding healthcare is the right thing to do morally and it’s the right economic decision. Making sure folks have access to healthcare without the fear of going bankrupt is something we all value and it’s something we will continue fighting for.”
“We are so grateful to the people who came today to talk to lawmakers about the importance of this life-saving health care,”said Speaker of the House Mark Eves of North Berwick, who is sponsoring a new measure to accept federal Medicaid dollars under the Affordable Care Act. “What we heard today is what we hear from our neighbors at home: people want and need life-saving health care. They don’t understand why politics and ideology are holding up common sense care.”
A public hearing will be held by the HHS Committee (Cross Building Rm 209) on January 15 regarding Speaker Eves’ and Senate Majority Leader Troy Jackson’s Medicaid expansion proposals. More pictures from yesterday can be found here.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
Weekly Democratic Address of Sen. John Patrick (Oxford): No One Should Fear Medical Emergency Leading to Bankruptcy
DEMOCRATIC RADIO ADDRESS
Patrick says: No one should have to fear that a medical emergency may lead to bankruptcy. It is time for Maine to step up and do something to help Mainers who lack basic health care.
We are just a few days in to 2014. For many of us, ringing in a new year is the marker of new beginnings. Often, we make new year’s resolutions that include a pledge to be healthier. For many, we are fortunate: accessing health care and getting our medical needs tended-to is not met with obstacles and challenges.
But, for the tens of thousands of Mainers who don’t have health insurance and can’t afford the out-of-pocket expense of going to the doctor, getting basic health care is often saved just for emergencies.
When folks can’t get the care they need, more serious health problems often arise and the quality, and sometimes even the length of their life, is diminished.
Good morning. This is State Senator John Patrick of Rumford.
For 3,000 veterans and tens of thousands of other Mainers, New Year’s Day was not likely a day for celebration. It was the day they lost their existing MaineCare health insurance.
What is going to happen to those folks who are in the middle of treatment for cancer or diabetes? What about those who have a heart condition? What choices do they now have?
Next week, the Legislature returns to work and we will, once again, have the opportunity to do something to help Mainers who lack basic health care.
At no cost to Maine taxpayers, we can accept the federal government’s offer to expand MaineCare health insurance to 70,000 of our neighbors. The federal government will pick up 100 percent of the costs for the first three years, and then, will gradually ratchet down to no less than 90 percent of the costs.
Additionally, if after the first three years, Mainers decide the program isn’t working, we can opt out–with no penalties. Imagine how many lives we can save and improve, and make healthier, by just giving this deal a chance.
While the Affordable Care Act is a good first step in ensuring more Americans have access to the health care they need, states need to step up to the plate and do their part to ensure the people in their states, who may have fallen through the cracks, have a chance at basic health care.
Fortunately, the federal government has made it easy: Maine could do as 25 other states and the District of Columbia have already done: accept the federal government’s offer to expand MaineCare health insurance.
Even other conservative governors have accepted this deal to help the folks in their states–and so too should Governor LePage. It is time for him to put aside politics and instead do what’s morally and economically right for the people of Maine.
Accepting this deal will save Maine $690 million over the next ten years, create more than 3,000 health care jobs, and inject $250 million into our economy.
The truth is, this deal is not about whether or not you like the Affordable Care Act. However, it is about ensuring 70,000 of our neighbors have access to the care they need, creating health care jobs, and saving money.
Every family should have a family doctor, and no one should have to fear that a medical emergency may lead to bankruptcy. Accepting this deal brings us one step closer to making that goal a reality.
Thank you for listening. This is State Senator John Patrick of Rumford. And I wish you and your family a very safe, healthy, and happy new year.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
Paul: Do you have a second?
McConnell: I’m all wired up here. Um.
Paul: I just did CNN. I just go over and over again, “We’re willing to compromise; we’re willing to negotiate- I think- I don’t think they poll tested ‘we won’t negotiate’. I think it’s awful for them to say that, over and over again.
McConnell: Yeah, I do, too. And I just came back from the two hour meeting, myself, and that was basically the same view privately as it was earlier-
Paul: I think if we keep saying ‘we wanted to defund it; we fought for that and now we’re willing to compromise on this’… I think they can’t- I mean we’re gonna- I think- well, I know we don’t want to be here, but we’re gonna win this, I think.
Weekly Democratic Radio Address by Sen. John Patrick (Oxford): Slashing programs that help families in need will not take away, fix circumstances
DEMOCRATIC RADIO ADDRESS
Patrick says: Slashing programs that help families in need will not take away or fix the circumstances that have led folks to this point.
In Maine, more than one in five children lives in poverty. That’s the highest poverty rate in all of New England.
What does it mean to be a poor kid in Maine? It probably means that at some point every day you are hungry and can’t get enough food to fill your belly.
You may go to bed, and wake up every morning, cold because your parents can’t afford to heat your house. In fact, you may not have a bed, or a bed of your own, or even a room to call your own.
You don’t know what it means to go “school shopping” because the clothes you wear are handed down. And you probably carry the very-adult burden of knowing that there’s not enough gas in your parent’s car to get you to your friend’s house across town or, to your weekend baseball game.
Sadly, that’s the every day reality for too many Maine kids.
Good Morning. This is State Senator John Patrick of Rumford.
Most of us agree that kids do not choose to be born in to poverty. Most of us would also agree that we all have a stake in making sure kids are well-fed, healthy, and safe. And the people who want that more than anyone for these kids are their parents.
Who among us doesn’t want to make sure our kids are provided every opportunity to succeed? Most of the parents of poor kids, are doing the best that they can –often working more than one job—they’re doing all that they can to try and make ends meet and do right by their family.
The reality is more Maine people are struggling.
Yet, at nearly every turn, Governor LePage pulls the rug out from under struggling families instead of offering a hand up.
For example, the LePage administration removed very low income families with children from the program known as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families or TANF. Now, seventy percent of those families have had to rely on food banks. One in three families have had their utilities turned off—and one in five, have been evicted from their homes. Yet Governor LePage demands, “get up off the couch and get a job!”
Governor LePage continues to turn up the rhetoric against struggling families trying to get on their feet again. At every opportunity, he uses language vilifying the people who don’t have it as good as him now.
More people have lost their homes than have found jobs, thanks to Governor LePage.
Slashing programs that help families in need will not take away or fix the circumstances that have led folks to this point.
Most people don’t choose to be poor. For the Mainers who aren’t poor—many of us are a paycheck or two away from missing a rent or mortgage payment. Many of us are fighting to stay in the middle class, let alone climb in to it.
As lawmakers, we need to be making investments in people. The best pathway out of poverty is the opportunity that comes with a strong economy. That means investing in our people, places and things, our schools, health care, and increasing opportunity so that people can secure good paying jobs.
So, let’s make a change for those one in five children so that they too can climb the ladder of opportunity for a better a life.
Thank you for listening. This is State Senator John Patrick of Rumford. Have a great weekend.
###Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
Weekly Democratic Address by Senate Majority Leader Troy Jackson: Time for Governor LePage to Stop Excuses, Expand Health Care to More Maine People
- (NOTE: Links beyond the audio radio address are my own addition. ~AP)
DEMOCRATIC RADIO ADDRESS (AUDIO)
Jackson says: it is time for the governor to stop the excuses and expand health care to more Maine people because it’s the right economic and moral thing to do
Good Morning. This is Senate Majority Leader, Troy Jackson of Allagash.
There are some things worth debating, like taxes and budgets. But lately, there has been one issue that some, including Governor LePage, have decided to turn in to a political football—expanding health care to more Maine people.
Right now, Maine has an opportunity to at no cost, expand health care to tens of thousands of hard working Mainers, including 3,000 veterans. If Maine does not accept this offer to expand health care, then people will go without and the deal will be lost. With people’s lives on the line, we should not be debating whether or not it’s the right thing to do. The answer is clear.
To me, and to many of my colleagues, making sure that you can go to the doctor—that you can afford the doctor’s visit when you are sick, is not debatable. It’s a basic right— one that ensures a healthier and a longer life and for folks to keep working to provide for their families.
Earlier this week, my Democratic colleagues called on the governor to stop making excuses to deny and delay health care.
We called on him to look beyond his rhetoric and join all the other Republican Governors who put aside partisanship and political games to accept federal dollars and expand health care for the people in their state.
Instead, this week, Governor LePage doubled down on his deny and delay tactics and spread misinformation about the Mainers who need healthcare. Worse, his tactics attempt to pit Mainers against each other by vilifying people who have no other choice but to turn to Medicaid or Medicare for their health care.
The Mainers who don’t have health insurance, and could benefit from expanding health care, look like you and me. In fact, if I weren’t in the legislature, I wouldn’t have health insurance because as a logger from Allagash, I can’t afford it.
My friend Ryan Kelly was also a logger from Allagash, and he didn’t have health insurance. He did have a heart condition that he couldn’t get treatment for— and he died at the age of 26, leaving behind a four year old daughter.
I, too have a heart condition— one that is very similar to the one my friend Ryan had. But because I have health insurance, I can afford to get the care I need— and I’m alive. I can’t help thinking that’s the reason that I’m still here today— I have health insurance.
We should be throwing people like Ryan a line, not pulling up the ladder behind us.
Health care is a right and no one should be left behind.
So why does Governor LePage think that he and the government can choose who deserves health care and who doesn’t? He has health insurance. Perhaps it’s easy to judge when you have something that others do not.
He doesn’t think that if you drink or smoke you deserve health insurance so you can see a doctor. What about if you wear glasses? Or have a pre-existing condition? Where do you draw the line— and who is he to be the judge and jury on people’s lives.
In January, there are 25,000 people— that’s more than the entire population of Auburn— who currently have Medicaid and will lose their health care because of the governor’s decision. I wonder what he’ll say to them? How he, a man with health insurance, will tell 25,000 Mainers they’re not worth it?
Well, I can tell you that I don’t believe I or anyone else has the right to deny health care to others just because they are sick.
I don’t want to live in a state where we turn our back on those in need.
In January, when the Legislature reconvenes we will continue fighting so that every family has a family doctor. And it is time for the governor to stop the excuses, stop dividing our state, and join what doctors, hospitals, businesses, and Mainers know: Expanding health care to more Maine people is the right economic and moral thing to do.
Thank you for listening. This is Senate Majority Leader Troy Jackson of Allagash. Have a great weekend.
*Related: Troy Jackson’s HeartRead Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
UPDATE: Now that the Senate Republicans stood with Governor LePage and today refused to override last week’s veto, LD 1066, “An Act To Increase Access to Health Coverage and Qualify Maine for Federal Funding”, is going to be taken up by the HHS Committee as early as tomorrow.
(Originally posted April 2, 2013)
On March 20th, Democrats held a press conference introducing LD 1066, “An Act To Increase Access to Health Coverage and Qualify Maine for Federal Funding”. If Maine accepts the federal health care dollars to cover nearly 70,000 people, the state will save $690 million over the next decade, according to the non-partisan Kaiser Foundation and the conservative Heritage Foundation.
Under the Affordable Care Act, the federal government will fully pay for the coverage for three years. Federal funding will gradually reduce to 90 percent after the first three years. States may opt-out of the program at any time.
Here is a clip of sponsor Rep. Dr. Linda Sanborn, a retired family physician, at the press conference:
- “Accepting these federal dollars to get health care to more Maine people is the right prescription for Maine. Maine has an opportunity to cover more people and save millions of dollars currently spent to treat uninsured people in emergency rooms.”
She was joined by Maine Medical Association President Dr. Dieter Kreckel and bill co-sponsors Rep. Jane Pringle (Windham), a retired primary care doctor and medical clinic director (VIDEO), Rep. Anne Graham (Yarmouth), a pediatric nurse practitioner, Rep. Ann Dorney (Norridgewock), a family doctor, and Sen. Geoff Gratwick (Bangor):
“Building a strong economy and a strong middle class means making sure people have the health care they need, when they need it, at an affordable cost. Accepting federal funds to increase health coverage will strengthen Maine’s economy and provide health coverage to thousands of hard-working Mainers.”
Today, Speaker of the House Mark Eves gave strong backing to the measure that would authorize Maine to accept federal health care dollars to cover nearly 70,000 Maine families. More than 50 people came to testify in support of the bill. The Health and Human Services Committee will vote on the measure in the coming weeks.
Here is his prepared testimony delivered during the public hearing before the Health and Human Services Committee.
Good afternoon, Senator Craven, Rep. Farnsworth and distinguished members of the Health and Human Services Committee.
I am Rep. Mark Eves of North Berwick — and I have the honor of serving as the Speaker of the Maine House.
Thank you for allotting me the time to testify on this very critical issue to our state.
I am here to testify in support of LD 1066, “An Act to Increase Access to Health Coverage and Qualify Maine for Federal Funding.” I’d like to thank the bill sponsors, especially Rep. and Dr. Linda Sanborn of Gorham, for bringing this very important measure forward. Thank you to the co-sponsors Sen. Saviello and Sen. Woodbury for speaking today.
LD 1066 will take the federal government up on its offer to fully pay for health care for tens of thousands of more Maine people, while saving the state $690 million over the course of a decade.
It’s a bargain and it’s a good deal.
It will mean health and economic security for so many more Mainers.
It will bring down the cost of health care for all Maine people and our hospitals.
The arguments to support this measure are sound and strong. The doctors, the small business owners, the working families, the veterans, the hospitals, the economists, and the experts that are here today will make that case for you.
But today, as you listen to these individuals, I urge you to think about why you came to Augusta. Why you ran for office. I’ve talked with many of you. I know you, like me, came here to serve the people in your community.
You came here to make a difference in the lives of our community members.
You can change the lives of 70,000 people in our state by giving their family access to a family doctor: A working father who can’t afford to pay for his heart medicine; an older Mainer struggling to pay for medicine or food; a veteran who can’t afford their insulin.
You can not only witness history, you can participate in it.
As a member of this committee, I heard regularly about the importance of health coverage and the difference that it made in people’s lives. I remember clearly the working father with a heart condition who spoke eloquently to our committee about the fact that MaineCare had saved his life and allowed him to have access to the medication he needed to stay healthy in order to work and care for his children. I remember the formerly uninsured young woman in her 20’s who had been unable to manage her diabetes. She was in and out of the hospital on a regular basis until she received access to MaineCare and was able to receive the preventive care and medical supplies that she needed to control her diabetes and manage her health.
You have the power to give 70,000 more Maine people the security of knowing that if they are sick, they can go to the doctor. As a health care provider, as a veteran member of the Health and Human Services Committee, and as a parent, I know what it means to have that security and I’ve seen and heard first hand what it means when you don’t.
I know it’s tempting to allow this to become a partisan issue. But I urge you not to. I urge you to put partisanship and ideology aside. Look at the numbers, do the math, listen to the doctors, look at the facts, and listen to the people of Maine who are behind this bill. We have an opportunity to do what’s right for the people of our state and change the lives of so many. Let’s seize this opportunity together. Thank you.
« Previous Entries