Maine’s Republican Legislature Divided on LD 1066, Medicaid Expansion Bill

Posted on December 2, 2013. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

NOTE: Continuing to dust off past posts regarding Maine Senate Minority Leader Mike Thibodeau (R-Waldo), as news broke today that he is considering jumping into the GOP primary race for Mike Michaud’s open seat. Here is the clip linked below in the original write up.

*Related: “Maine Senate Floor Debate On Override Of LePage LD 1509 FY 14-15 Budget Veto (June 26 VIDEOS)”

(Originally posted 18 Jun 2013)

Last week saw a clear division among the 126th Legislature’s GOP caucus regarding whether or not to pass LD 1066, “An Act To Increase Access to Health Coverage and Qualify Maine for Federal Funding”, as Assistant Minority Leader Sen. Roger Katz (R-Kennebec) proposed a “sunset provision” amendment that passed that chamber by a 23-12 vote.

Rising to speak against the provision were Minority Leader Sen. Mike Thibodeau (R-Waldo), Sen. Doug Thomas (R-Somerset) , Sen. James Hamper (R-Oxford) , Sen. Garrett Mason (R-Androscoggin) , Sen. David Burns (R-Washington) and Sen. Andre Cushing (R-Penobscot) .

Over in the House, Rep. Deb Sanderson (R-Chelsea) offered a second amendment to the bipartisan Senate approved bill, adding a $100 million dollar fiscal note that was indefinitely postponed by a 88-61 vote.

From her prepared testimony: (shortened dramatically, due to available working space on this post. ~AP)

    “I rise before you today and present an amendment to LD 1066. This amendment seeks to set a clear and distinct priority in our MaineCare program and ensure that its original mission of caring for those who cannot care for themselves is fulfilled….

    Today I speak for the people that we legislators, policy makers and budgeters have shoved into the shadows. Today I’d like to bring them out in the light for you to see. Yes, these are the 3100 people being forced to languish on a waitlist, not receiving essential services because we don’t have the fiscal discipline to make the choices that need to be made in order to fund the care they need… not want… need. Some have been on this list for years….

    This amendment tried to rectify the abuses committed by the legislature and asks that you vote to insist that they begin receiving services by July 1 of THIS year….

    Yes, it will be expensive. This amendment carries a fiscal note of almost $100 million dollars over the upcoming biennium….”

Her colleague Rep. Heather Sirocki (R-Scarborough) rose to speak in support of the amendment:

Then Minority Leader Rep Ken Fredette (R-Newport) spoke in strong opposition, not just to the amendment but to the Medicaid expansion bill as well.

(Later, Fredette would rise again to speak infamously out against the expansion- but, we’ve already covered THAT today!)

Asst Majority Leader Jeff McCabe (D-Skowhegan) then moved to indefinitely postpone the LD 1066 amendment.

When the House took the bill up again, as amended previously by Asst Minority Leader Senator Roger Katz (R-Kennebec), the vote results revealed some modest gains for the expansion, with 97 voting for enactment.

As expected, Governor LePage vetoed LD 1066 on Monday (now the second time he has vetoed Medicaid expansion), so now it awaits more votes in the Legislature.

Currently, House Majority Leader Seth Berry has moved for the bill to be tabled until later today (June 18) pending reconsideration.

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Maine Senate Floor Debate on Override of LePage LD 1509 FY 14-15 Budget Veto (June 26 VIDEOS)

Posted on December 2, 2013. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

3amigosNOTE: Now that Senate Minority leader Mike Thibodeau (R-Waldo) has indicated he is considering entering the #2CD #MEGOP primary fray against former Senate President Kevin (“Third time’s the charm, I tell ya!”) Raye and former Treasurer Bruce (“Which district do I live in, again?”) Poliquin, it’s time to go back through and dust off some posts.

Oh, yeah… Blaine (“I’m running, too!”) Richardson is in the mix there, too- somewhere.

Here’s a goodie- the day Mike Thibodeau vote to sustain LePage’s veto and shut down the entire state government. Ah, good times!

(Originally posted 30 Jun 2013)

Before the Maine Senate voted decisively by a 26-9 tally last Wednesday to override Governor Paul LePage’s Tuesday veto on LD 1509, “An Act Making Unified Appropriations and Allocations for the Expenditures of State Government, General Fund and Other Funds and Changing Certain Provisions of the Law Necessary to the Proper Operations of State Government for the Fiscal Years Ending June 30, 2014 and June 30, 2015”, twenty members of that body rose to deliver speeches.

gop vs gopNOTE: Although Maine Republican Senators Assistant Minority Leader Roger Katz (Kennebec), Pat Flood (Kennebec; member of Appropriations committee), Brian Langley (Hancock), Tom Saviello (Franklin), Roger Sherman (Aroostook) and Edward Youngblood (Penobscot) joined Independent Senator Dick Woodbury (Cumberland) and all 19 Democratic Senators in overriding the Governor’s veto hence preventing a disastrous statewide government shutdown, there were no public statements released by their press office.

The closest one can find would be this scathing letter from Assistant Minority Leader and former Augusta Mayor Roger Katz (Kennebec), which was picked up by the Washington Post.

Katz has taken some heat from his own party for the letter:

    Commenters on a well-known conservative website blasted Katz for attempting to compromise on Medicaid expansion. The senator was dubbed a RINO, a “Republican In Name Only.” One commenter suggested that Katz is predisposed to support liberal policies because he is Jewish and an attorney.

Ugly- and indicative of a party very deeply divided indeed.

Here in order of speakers are clips of the full debate. The statements added are from a Senate Democratic press release sent out after the vote. Additionally was this statement from Senate President Justin Alfond (Cumberland).

    “We did what the people of Maine expect us to do— we passed a responsible budget that will keep the state working,” said Senate President Justin Alfond of Portland. “This is what we came here to do: work together to find common ground and help our state thrive.”

*Related: Maine Senate Debate On LD 1509, FY 14-15 Biannual Budget (June 13 VIDEOS)

LD 1509 Veto Override Floor Speech of Maine Senator Dawn Hill (York)

    “Today’s vote is no longer a vote on whether you like the budget; today’s vote is a vote to either shut down or not to shut down our state’s government,” said Senator Dawn Hill of York, the Senate Chair of the Appropriations Committee. “I’m proud that our Republican colleagues joined us and stuck together to keep our state going, and pass a responsible, balanced budget for the people of Maine.”

LD 1509 Veto Override Floor Speech of Maine Senator Pat Flood (Kennebec)

LD 1509 Veto Override Floor Speech of Maine Senator Emily Cain (Penobscot)

LD 1509 Veto Override Floor Speech of Maine Senator Brian Kangley (Hancock)

LD 1509 Veto Override Floor Speech of Maine Senator David Burns (Washington)

LD 1509 Veto Override Floor Speech of Maine Senator John Cleveland (Androscoggin)

LD 1509 Veto Override Floor Speech of Maine Senator Doug Thomas (Somerset)

LD 1509 Veto Override Floor Speech of Maine Senator Tom Saviello (Franklin)

LD 1509 Veto Override Floor Speech of Maine Senator Anne Haskell (Cumberland)

LD 1509 Veto Override Floor Speech of Maine Senator Colleen Lachowicz (Kennebec)

LD 1509 Veto Override Floor Speech of Maine Senator Margaret Craven (Androscoggin)

LD 1509 Veto Override Floor Speech of Maine Senator Chris Johnson (Lincoln)

LD 1509 Veto Override Floor Speech of Maine Senator Stan Gerzofsky (Cumberland)

LD 1509 Veto Override Floor Speech of Maine Senator Andre Cushing (Penobscot)

LD 1509 Veto Override Floor Speech of Maine Senator John Tuttle (York)

LD 1509 Veto Override Floor Speech of Maine Senator Geoff Gratwick (Penobscot)

LD 1509 Veto Override Floor Speech of Maine Senator Roger Katz (Kennebec)

LD 1509 Veto Override Floor Speech of Maine Senator Troy Jackson (Aroostook)

“I have voted on six biennial budgets in my time in the Legislature, and this is the budget vote I am most proud of,” said Assistant Senate Majority Leader Troy Jackson of Allagash. “It’s certainly not a perfect budget, but it is a responsible budget. This is what legislating should look like.

LD 1509 Veto Override Floor Speech of Maine Senator Mike Thibodeau (Waldo)

LD 1509 Veto Override Floor Speech of Maine Senator Seth Goodall (Sagadahoc)

    “While no one got everything they wanted in this budget, everyone got something they needed. That is compromise, and that is what is needed in divided government in order to move Maine forward,” said Senate Majority Leader Seth Goodall of Richmond. “Today’s vote is a vote for a higher responsibility to put our state on solid footing. It’s also a vote for an opportunity to avoid property tax increases on every Maine homeowner. It’s a vote for an investment in our schools and our children–and it’s a vote to keep the lights on.”

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(2011 Flashback) ACORN Stalker James O’Keefe Videos DHHS/ MaineCare “Fraud”; LePage Responds in Support of Clip

Posted on March 7, 2013. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , |

(Originally posted 11 Aug 2011. Reposted today as news comes that JamesOKeefeIII has been ordered to pay $100K settlement to a former ACORN employee.  ~AP)

From Portland Press Herald:

AUGUSTA – Two conservative groups, Americans For Prosperity of Maine and the Maine Heritage Policy Center, presented a video clip they allege exposes “vulnerabilities” in Maine’s Department of Health and Human Services. The video, sent to Carol Weston, state director of AFP, by James O’Keefe, shows an actor portraying a drug smuggler attempting to receive medicaid benefits. According to Weston, he eventually leaves the state office with an application form to fill out to receive MaineCare benefits.

The video shows the DHHS worker, identified only as Diane, suggesting that because the applicant receives no paychecks to report he has no income – despite the fact that he tells her he runs a cash business. But the worker also repeatedly tells the applicant, who speaks with an Irish accent,that she cannot help him fill out his application until he presents photo identification, a passport or naturalization papers.

She also repeatedly tries to get him to apply for insurance through Dirigo Health, which offers subsidized insurance, but would require him to pay a premium.

Here is the full video:

LePage’s office were quick to respond, releasing the following statement below. It is interesting to note that while the governor applauds the actions of attempting to fraudulently file for MaineCare by O’Keefe, LePage also acknowledges that the DHHS worker herself committed no fraud.

Governor LePage’s Statement on the Video Revealing Potential Vulnerability to Fraud within Maine’s Welfare System

For Immediate Release: Thursday, August 11, 2011
Contact: Adrienne Bennett

Augusta, Maine – The following statement from Governor Paul LePage was released Thursday morning from the Office of the Governor.

“I was made aware of the incident involving the Eligibility Specialist late yesterday and I did watch the video. I want to thank the individual who took this video; although I would have liked to receive in February when he filmed it and we would be six months further along in fixing the problem.”

“I am concerned with what I saw on the video for two reasons. First, that we are not providing the best service to the citizens of Maine. Much time was wasted in this interview. Second, it was clear to me that this individual was poorly trained and I take full responsibility for that.

The video in its entirety does not show a person willfully helping someone de-fraud the welfare system. It does show a need for further job knowledge and continuous and improved staff training. The employee has been on the job for approximately a year.

We need to do a better job providing our employees the best training possible and ensure they know their job and the responsibility that comes with it. The Fraud and Abuse Work Team has identified the need for better education and training of front line staff in identifying and preventing fraud and abuse. They also are working to identify systems vulnerable to fraud and abuse.

Although I do not believe the video shows an employee willfully allowing abuse of the welfare system, I do believe it is an example of how poor training can open the door to fraud and abuse. We must protect the limited resources for those who are truly in need and shutdown the benefits for those abusing the system.

I have asked Commissioner Mayhew to look into the incident immediately and to take the necessary steps to correct this problem.”

Seems to me that a good first step for Mayhew would be to call on the AG, to see if charges should be brought against O’Keefe!

A spokesman from Maine Heritage Policy Council was quick to comment as well:

Lance Dutson, chief executive officer of MHPC, said while the video only depicts one instance it supports the theory his group has about the ‘culture’ at DHHS.”It shows clearly what many of us have believed for some time – that Maine’s welfare system is exceedingly vulnerable to fraud and that we have front line stewards of taxpayer funds who are not adequately equipped to perform their duties,” he said.

Sara Gagne Holmes of Maine Equal Justice Partners emphasized that the video showed no actual fraud and the applicant did not receive any benefits.

“It was a screening interview; there was no application. This person never received Medicaid or any other benefits,” she said. “There are checks and balances in the system that we didn’t really see in the video.”

From looking at the MaineCare application information page, it appears that the worker and her supervisor followed the accepted protocol.

To find out whether you are financially eligible, you will need to visit one of the Regional Offices of the Office of Integrated Access and Support Services. Use the Office Finder to locate the office which serves you.Before your visit, you can print and complete the application by clicking on the link below.(You may prefer to have the form completed during your interview.) If you are not sure which application to complete, call the office which serves your town.

Application Forms When you apply for MaineCare, you may be asked to provide some or all of the items below:

  • New Citizenship and Identity Requirements to Get MaineCare
  • Copy of Power of Attorney, Conservator, or Guardianship documents
  • Documentation of all income sources and amounts (with the exception of Social Security and SSI)
  • Documentation of the value for property that is not the applicant’s residence
  • Copies of health insurance cards including Medicare
  • Documentation of health insurance payments
  • Copy of trust agreement where the applicant is a grantor or beneficiary
  • Copy of annuity contract
  • Copy of life insurance policies owned by the applicant and/or their spouse
  • Copy of prepaid burial contracts
  • Declaration of contents held in safety deposit box
  • Documentation of liquid assets owned currently by the applicant and/or spouse, or those that have their name on them.These include:
  • Current statements on all savings and checking accounts, certificate of deposits, IRA or other investments
  • Copy of savings bonds that the applicant or spouse have an interestNote that DHHS is expected to review the 60 months prior to application to determine if the applicant or their spouse gave away something of value without receiving equal value in return. This is called a ‘transfer of asset,’ and depending on what was transferred, when and to whom, it may result in a penalty. The penalty is based on the value of the transfer and results in a period of months MaineCare will not pay long term care expenses on behalf of the individual. To do this review we request: Statements on all savings and checking accounts, certificate of deposits, IRA or other investments for the prior 12 months, and the statement on that same account for month 60 prior to application.Documentation of values and use of all assets cashed in, closed, sold, transferred or otherwise liquidated during the 60 months prior to application.

Some questions remain:

One more question, and it’s a biggie:

Did O’Keefe break Maine violation of privacy laws? The answer appears to be hinged upon whether or not the DHHS offices are considered public or private property.

If that is indeed the case, O’Keefe could be in a world of trouble- and the LePage administration today, along with the MHPC and AFP, were applauding criminal acts against Maine state law. Oops!

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