(UPDATED) Weekly Address of Governor Paul LePage, er, DHHS Commish Mary Mayhew: “Most Vulnerable Will Keep Paying the Price for Medicaid Expansion”

Posted on February 25, 2014. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , |

(4:30 PM UPDATE): MDOL Commissioner Jeanne Paquette apparently didn’t think that her communications director Julie Rabinowicz expressed the department’s views clearly enough and as such, submitted her own statement moments ago:

    Statement from Commissioner Paquette: Growing Medicaid Budget Forces Cuts That Prevent Mainers from Getting Trained for New Jobs
    For Immediate Release: February 25, 2014

    Contact: Julie Rabinowitz, 207-621-5009

      AUGUSTA— Commissioner of Labor Jeanne Paquette has issued the following statement describing the effects of the growth of DHHS’s budget on the Department of Labor’s ability to assist the long term unemployed and the underemployed.

        Growing Medicaid Budget Forces Cuts That Prevent Mainers from Getting Trained for New Jobs

      Governor Paul R. LePage has said that because Maine already expanded welfare a decade ago, “Medicaid is now cannibalizing funding from all other state agencies.” This is particularly true in the Department of Labor, where loss of General Fund revenue has prevented many of our citizens from getting a hand up—not a handout—with a good job.

      Many of DOL’s job training programs and other initiatives to help businesses hire skilled workers were once funded by General Fund revenue or a mix of state and federal funding. But state funds have been cut drastically, leaving DOL dependent on shrinking federal dollars—dollars that come with many restrictions.

      Investments in job training targeted to high-wage, in-demand jobs provide a significant return; in general, trainees earn higher wages with better benefits than they did upon entering the program. The department’s programs are needed the most during economic downturns, yet our funding has declined, while demand for our services has increased.

      The department has not been able to sustain a number of programs that help people transition from unemployment and welfare back into the workforce.

      Forced by state funding cuts, DOL in 2007 and 2008 had to close almost half of its 22 CareerCenters, including sites in Rumford, Dover-Foxcroft, Ellsworth, Houlton, Belfast, Saco and Waterville, as well as satellite locations in Newcastle, South Paris and Madawaska. Little did the state realize how critical this decision would be just a few years later as these communities dealt with the recession.

      These closures severely limited Maine’s ability to assist the unemployed, making job-search support and job-training services much harder to access.

      Funding for another program, the Maine Enterprise Option, is gone. This program helped unemployment recipients start their own businesses by providing business management training. Running this program requires our staff to track and evaluate participants to ensure compliance with program requirements.

      Between 2006 and 2012, 2,730 people were trained to start businesses, including web and graphic design, bookkeeping, restaurants, dog grooming and bed and breakfasts. But federal Workforce Investment Act funding for this program went away, and we have no state resources to fund it. So DOL stopped enrolling people in 2012.

      The Department of Labor no longer upskills workers through the Governor’s Training Initiative, which was funded at a little more than $3 million in 2004, fell to $501,984 in 2010, then dropped to zero dollars in 2011.

      Just this year, the Legislature swept $2.5 million from the Competitive Skills Scholarship Program fund to balance the budget. This fund, paid by employers through an offset to unemployment taxes, helps low-income individuals train for high-wage, in-demand jobs. That $2.5 million would have trained an additional 360 people in 2014.

      Funding for the Maine Apprenticeship Program fell from a high of $622,907 in 2004 to $436,040 in 2013. In fact, current funding will not meet the needs of the existing sponsors/apprentices in our state.

      Focusing apprenticeship expansion efforts in Maine’s high-growth, high-wage industry sectors—healthcare, energy and precision manufacturing, for example—could increase training opportunities for unemployed or underemployed adults and teens. Apprentices earn while they learn; therefore, these people could be earning wages instead of collecting benefits.

      There are other programs that DOL cannot implement due to a lack of state funding. These are programs that would help develop Maine’s economy by creating a pipeline of skilled workers—something businesses look for when deciding to locate in a state or region.

      The department could offer a subsidized wage program to wean people off unemployment while allowing them to receive on-the-job training in a new career or with a new employer.

      The department could conduct an annual job vacancy survey of employers. This would provide real-time data to ensure that our scarce training resources are invested in skills and occupations that employers are actually looking for and hiring.

      The state could implement the industry partnership program for workforce development—a program included in last year’s budget by the legislature but not funded. Industry partnerships have been effective in other states to leverage private-sector support to develop industry-specific training. Maine’s recent healthcare sector grant showed that we have the ability to do this and our people and our businesses can reap huge rewards from implementing this collaborative training model.

      It’s the same refrain. No money for training. But training is an investment with a return—better jobs with benefits, higher wages and a career ladder for future promotions, economic growth and a brighter future for our children.

      Sadly, Maine has to forego this investment to feed the beast that is DHHS. DOL has utilized best practices and streamlined where ever possible—doing more with less.

      But if Medicaid expansion continues to absorb a greater portion of the state’s General Fund dollars, departments like Labor will ultimately be doing “less with less”—the opposite of the best interests of unemployed and underemployed Maine citizens.

    Commissioner Jeanne S. Paquette brings more than 20 years’ experience in human resources and workforce development to the Department of Labor. She is a member of the Society for Human Resource Management Maine State Council’s HR Hall of Fame.

———-

Last night progressive site Dirigo Blue broke the news that that either Governor LePage’s office or DHHS enlisted the communications directors from other Maine state agencies to lobby against Medicaid expansion:

lepage sots angry self

  • John Bott – Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry
  • Doug Dunbar – Office of Fiscal and Program Review
  • Scott Fish – Department of Corrections
  • David Heidrich – Department of Administrative and Financial Services (DAFS)
  • Jennifer Smith – Department of Administrative and Financial Services
  • Jessamine Logan – Department of Environmental Protection (DEP)
  • Stephen McCausland – Department of Public Safety
  • Jeff Nichols – Department of Marine Resources (DMR)
  • Julie Rabinowitz – Department of Labor
  • Ted Talbot – Department of Transportation (DOT)
  • Doug Ray – Department of Economic and Community Development
  • Samantha Warren – Department of Education (DOE)

Now this afternoon comes the weekly address from Governor LePage’s office, shared with no embargo. In the past, First Lady Ann LePage has stepped in for her husband on rare occasions, but this address by DHHS Commissioner Mary Mayhew is an unprecedented move by the administration and signals there will most likely be push back on earlier reports of GOP lawmakers working with their majority Democratic counterparts to expand Medicaid.

Below Mayhew’s radio address are the letters from those communications directors, as shared by LePage’s office last night.

Audio link here. Most Vulnerable Will Keep Paying the Price for Medicaid Expansion

      Most Vulnerable Will Keep Paying the Price for Medicaid Expansion


    Difficult decisions must be made in Augusta. Tough choices are needed to ensure that state government can live within its means and that we can support and care for those who need us most.

    An irate DHHS Commissioner Mary Mayhew answers questions asked by Rep. Peter Stuckey (D-Portland) on January 14. Beside Mayhew is Gary Alexander, who had previously spoken to the HHS committee about his infamous report denouncing Medicaid expansion.

    An irate DHHS Commissioner Mary Mayhew answers questions asked by Rep. Peter Stuckey (D-Portland) on January 14. Beside Mayhew is Gary Alexander, who had previously spoken to the HHS committee about his infamous report denouncing Medicaid expansion.

    Hello, this is Maine Department of Health and Human Services Commissioner Mary Mayhew.

    Currently the Legislature is debating whether to add another 100,000 people to MaineCare, the state’s tax-payer funded healthcare program, at a cost of more than $800 million over the next ten years.

    At the same time, there are thousands of elderly and disabled on waitlists for services to help support them in their homes and in their communities.

    Most of us know someone in this situation. It’s an 80 year old mother who is struggling to care for her 50 year old son with Down syndrome. She needs help today and is worried who will care for her son when she is no longer around.

    It’s the parents of an autistic child who should be celebrating the accomplishment of their child graduating high school. But instead, they are panicked because their child is being placed on an adult waitlist for critical support services. Their child cannot be home alone.

    Maine is one of the oldest states in the country and the demands for services will only be increasing in the years to come. Everyone is worried about how best to care for an elderly parent, grandmother, aunt, or uncle.

    These are real people – the elderly and developmentally disabled – and far too many of them are waiting for services. The state needs more than $45 million to cover the services for these individuals.

    There are tough decisions that must be made in Augusta. We just finished paying off a $750 million debt owed to Maine hospitals because of the unbudgeted costs of the last expansion. We cannot repeat history and expect a different outcome.

    Democrats say that adding 100,000 people to Medicaid is somehow free, but we all know better. Medicaid has grown by more than $1 billion over the last ten years because of previous expansions and the reality of healthcare cost increases. It is nonsensical to believe that after years of financial crisis in Medicaid that the answer today is to add another 100,000 people to the program. Don’t be fooled by efforts to combine expansion with a fancy legislative proposal to manage care in Medicaid. The miraculous savings being advertised are not real and are only thinly veiled efforts to get support for a massive expansion of Medicaid.

    Mayhew fields all questions from Maine media regarding the $900k+ Alexander Report, while Gary Alexander stands silently by. He did not say one word to Maine press, who were instructed by Mayhew that she would be the only one speaking to them about the report.

    Mayhew fields all questions from Maine media regarding the $900k+ Alexander Report, while Gary Alexander stands silently by. He did not say one word to Maine press, who were instructed by Mayhew that she would be the only one speaking to them about the report.

    We do not live in a world of unlimited resources.

    If the state expands Medicaid our elderly and disabled will wait longer for services. That is a price we cannot afford to pay.

    Efforts to contain spending in the Medicaid program should be focused on meeting the needs of our most vulnerable and addressing other critical needs in state government like pay for state employees whose salaries have been frozen for years, investments in career centers to help people find jobs, or really funding education or helping to preserve important industries in Maine like lobstering, natural resources, and farming.

    Government cannot be all things to all people and we must put our most vulnerable citizens’ needs first and ensure that state government is effectively prioritizing our limited resources in the best interests of the future of this state.

    Thank you.

Video of DHHS Commissioner Mary Mayhew after the HHS Committee hearing on the Alexander report:

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LePage Reneges on $100M Statewide Maine Jobs Bond Contracts, Day 3: MaineDOT Projects in Peril?

Posted on February 24, 2014. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , |

Feb. 22—Maine Governor Paul LePage and Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant at the Homeland Security & Public Safety Committee session, which was about the future of the National Guard.

Feb. 22—Maine Governor Paul LePage and Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant at the Homeland Security & Public Safety Committee session, which was about the future of the National Guard (photo via NGA).

We are giving Governor LePage a pass on the “Day Count” for Saturday and Sunday, as he was down in DC for the NGA winter meetingwell, until yesterday morning at least.

He inexplicably skipped last night’s dinner with President and Mrs. Obama at the White House, as well as multiple meetings today with the President and Vice-President Biden.

Hey, waitaminute… Anyone else remember when LePage pulled out of NGA?

    LePage said he will attend the winter meeting, held in Washington, D.C., because of its sessions with President Barack Obama and cabinet members. But he said he has no use for the other meetings held by the group.

    “I get no value out of those meetings,” he said. “They are too politically correct and everybody is lovey-dovey and no decisions are ever made. There are some tough decisions that need to be made in this country and we need to start making them.”

(If anyone can make sense of his thought processes, oh do please- let the rest of Maine in on the trick…)

Fortunately, the Kennebec Journal helpfully shared this (Governors: ‘ObamaCare here to stay’) for LePage, so he can be up to speed on what he missed and via AP, gave Maine a shout-out:

    …governors from both parties report that a full repeal of the law (ACA) would be complicated at best, if not impossible, as states move forward with implementation and begin covering millions of people – both by expanding Medicaid rolls for lower-income resident or through state or federal exchanges that offer federal subsidies to those who qualify.

    A recent Associated Press analysis of the sign-ups found that six Republican-led states – Florida, Idaho, Maine, Michigan, North Carolina, and Wisconsin – were on pace or better than the states had initially projected.

Oh dear.

Onward to Day Three!

———————————————

Last August, Maine Governor Paul LePage recorded a video, urging support for a $100 million transportation bond as a means of “supporting economic development and jobs”.

It was a politically motivated plea sent out directly at the public for a solitary transportation bond to be put on the November ballot. He also called for a special session and once the dust settled on that special session called for by the Governor, there was agreement on a slew of bonds to go before voters.

Four in particular are of interest, as they related directly to bonds for higher education and transportation:

Voters in November passed all four of the above bonds by wide margins and as the Secretary of State’s office “Citizen’s Guide 2013” points out, all passed measures go into effect 30 days after the election results are certified.

Governor Paul LePage and MDOT Commissioner David Bernhardt release 3 year statewide Work Plan in North Augusta.

Governor Paul LePage and MDOT Commissioner David Bernhardt release 3 year statewide Work Plan in North Augusta.

On January 13, Maine media was advised by Maine DOT press secretary Ted Talbot that there would be a press conference rolling out an ambitious statewide transportation plan the following day. Inside a North Augusta MaineDOT garage, Governor Paul LePage, Senator Ron Collins (R-York), MaineDOT Commissioner David Bernhardt and others gathered as LePage and Bernhardt released MDOT’s statewide 3 year, $2B work plan:

    The Maine DOT’s “Three Year Work Plan” will use $100 million in state transportation bonds – approved last November by voters – and federal highway funds to pay for more than 1,600 projects from now until 2016 in all 16 of the state’s counties.

    In 2014, a total of 425 projects are scheduled at a cost of $455 million.

    “The work plan represents more than a listing of projects,” LePage said during a news conference in Augusta. “Our transportation infrastructure is the backbone that delivers economic opportunities and good-paying jobs to Maine. That’s why I will continue to support the Maine DOT’s innovative efforts to upgrade our transportation system and to keep stretching that buck.”

The governor commented that this was a non-partisan effort:

    “The bond package was approved by about 70 percent of the voters in Maine. So it was a non-partisan effort,” LePage said. “Everybody worked together on it.”

As there was quite a bit of ongoing bickering over the budget, revenue sharing, the infamous Alexander Report and Medicaid expansion a few miles away at the State House, media questioned the Governor after the presentation about those topics instead of the MDOT work plan.

LePage minced no words as he attacked Democratic lawmakers:

    “The boogey man in the room…”

    “It’s just the opposite of what the opponents say. Let me tell you something… I hear, Mark Eves says… (unintelligible) “tea party guy”… it takes one to know one. When I was a Democrat… I was a Democrat- until- I learned how to count. You see that? I learned to count; I became a Republican. Because they’re giving you smoke and mirrors. They gave us smoke and mirrors in 2002 and they’re doing it again today.

    Let me tell you something else that you don’t… Democrats… there’s going to be several nursing homes closing, because they’re not covered. And we have the waiting list, that’s not covered. So all of these things that they … Democrats say are gonna happen are wrong. They’re simply wrong.”

… and that he has “no power” with this legislature, among other claims.

    “I have no power when it comes to this legislature. They do what they damn well please.”

So at no time in January did the Governor publicly threaten to renege on the transportation bond. In fact, on the following day (January 15), his weekly address stressed that “Maine has an obligation to help our most vulnerable and pay its bills”.

At the time of the work plan roll out, Associated General Contractors of Maine executive director Matt Marks was quoted by MPBN:

    The work will provide badly needed jobs in Maine’s construction sector, where as recently as early last year, says Matt Marks, unemployment topped 26 percent. Marks is executive director of Associated General Contractors of Maine.

    “Last year, I worried about the talented constructors who would leave Maine for jobs in other states,”
    he said. But Marks says unemployment among his membership has now dropped to 16 percent, a downward trend he expects will continue, as the 2014 transportation projects get under way this spring.

    The Transportation Department says it’s confident it will secure the state and federal funds it will need to complete the more than 1,000 projects scheduled for 2015 and 2016.

Here is the list of contracts awarded so far, updated as late as February 14. It will be interesting to see how they react to news of the Governor’s refusal to honor the state’s signed contracts and whether the work already scheduled will be able to continue.

——————–

*RELATED:

1. BREAKING: Governor LePage Reneges on $100M Jobs Bonds; Bounces $59M State of Maine Check
2. LePage Reneges on $100M Statewide Maine Jobs Bond Contracts, Day 2
3. (Aug 2013 Review) Governor LePage (Video): Support of the Transportation Bond Supports Economic Stability and Jobs

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Weekly Address of Governor Paul LePage: Maine has an Obligation to Help Our Most Vulnerable and Pay its Bills

Posted on January 15, 2014. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , |

Audio link here.

    Maine has an Obligation to Help Our Most Vulnerable and Pay its Bills

Welfare expansion will cost Maine more than $800 million dollars over the first 10 years. That’s worth saying again. Over the next decade, if Maine expanded welfare, it will cost taxpayers more than $800 million dollars.

Hello, this is Governor Paul LePage.

lepage officeWhile liberals are busy blasting me and the Administration about hiring a consultant to analyze whether we should expand Maine’s Medicaid program, the reality is the report provides a road map to save taxpayers money and improve services for the truly needy.

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.

When risks like the poverty rate and costs of care are taken into consideration, Maine could pay up to $3.2 billion over 10 years.

History does repeat itself, as you well know, we just paid off the hospital debt from the 2002 expansion.

Maine already has the third-highest spending on Medicaid in the nation. Expanding is not affordable.

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.

Today, Maine’s welfare program is not financially solvent. Last week, I alerted legislative leadership of a major shortfall in the budget. The culprit? The Medicaid program. There is a multimillion-dollar shortfall for several reasons, including a rise in the use of services and increasing health care costs. Like everything else, prices are going up and health care is no exception.

I do not want to see Maine falling behind in paying its bills again. It was a battle with liberals for three years to get them to do the right thing and finally pay 750 million dollars to Maine’s hospitals. The state had an obligation to pay its welfare bills. And we have an obligation to continue to pay them.

I talk frequently about fiscal responsibility, but as important is the quality of care provided by our welfare programs.

Medicaid is supposed to help our most vulnerable citizens – the children, elderly, disabled and mentally ill. However, there are thousands of Mainers on waitlists who need health care services.

We have nursing homes on the brink of closing due to below cost reimbursement rates.

We also know of many vulnerable people who would like home and community-based health care services, but they are denied because funding is not available. If this care was available to them, it would cost the state less than current services.

Our Administration wants a welfare system that works for Maine people. Mainers deserve a safety net that provides quality and accessible care. That’s why we are striving to gain greater flexibility from the federal government to improve services for those who need it most.

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?

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Weekly Democratic Address by Speaker Mark Eves (N Berwick): Politics Only Obstacle to Life-Saving Health Care for Maine

Posted on January 11, 2014. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , |

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.

speaker evesWhen 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.

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