(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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(UPDATED) Maine GOP- Yes, REPUBLICANS!- To Attempt Compromised/ Combined Medicaid Expansion Bill

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

(11:45 AM UPDATE) The plan has now been released and as anticipated, it involves combining proposals from Senator Roger Katz and Speaker of the House Mark Eves:

      A key Republican senator on Tuesday will release his proposal to expand the state’s Medicaid program to more than 60,000 low-income Mainers, a move that could reshape a fiercely partisan debate that has raged at the State House for over a year.

      The proposal, sponsored by Sen. Roger Katz, R-Augusta, the assistant minority leader, is the result of a six-month effort to build support to expand a publicly funded health insurance program that has traditionally provoked fierce ideological and philosophical opposition among Republicans for its results and costs.

      Lawmakers will take up Katz’s bill before they tackle a separate expansion proposal sponsored by House Speaker Mark Eves, D-North Berwick.

Katz’s proposal includes a three year “sunset provision”, which he floated out to lawmakers as an amendment during last year’s LD 1066 floor debate. That motion passed the Senate by a 23-12 vote.

Democrats released more information on the proposal and statements from leadership:

    Democratic Leaders Issue Statement on Republican Health Care Expansion Proposal

    AUGUSTA — Top Democratic leaders in the Maine House and Senate issued the following statements in response to a proposal from Senate Republican Leader Senator Roger Katz of Kennebec to accept federal funds to provide healthcare coverage to 70,000 Mainers, including nearly 3,000 veterans.

    In addition to accepting the federal funds, Sen. Katz’s proposal would:

    • Put in place a plan to reduce the wait list for individuals with intellectual disabilities seeking MaineCare services like home care;
    • Call for managed care to reduce healthcare costs;
    • Fund two new Medicaid fraud investigators in the Attorney General’s office;
    • Conduct a feasibility study to review Arkansas’ and Iowa’s plans to use the federal dollars to purchase private insurance;
    • Include a sunset provision after three years when federal reimbursement reduces to 95 percent and an opt-out provision if the match rate goes below 100 percent during the first three years. 

    Speaker of the House Mark Eves of North Berwick and Senate Majority Leader Troy Jackson of Allagash sponsored two separate measures to accept federal funds, and issued the following statements.

    DEMOCRATIC STATEMENT ON REPUBLICAN PROPOSAL

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

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

    “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.”

    Senator Katz is expected to present the Republican proposal to the Health and Human Services Committee on Wednesday at 3 p.m.

    ###

——————————————————

Rumor overnight via Maine Wire about state GOP lawmakers making a move to expand Medicaid seems to be accurate:

Senate Minority Leader Roger Katz (R-Kennebec)

Senate Minority Leader Roger Katz (R-Kennebec)

A pair of Republican state senators are set to roll out a bill that would expand the state’s Medicaid program, MaineCare — a proposal that so far has been largely opposed by Republican Gov. Paul LePage and rank-and-file members of the party. On Tuesday, state Sen.’s Tom Saviello, R-Wilton and Roger Katz, R-Augusta, will unveil their plan to members of their party during a caucus meeting and then take their pitch to the editorial boards of two of the state’s daily newspapers.

Democrats have also been uncharacteristically quiet about the measure, which would allow the state to accept federal funding to expand the state’s low-income health care system under the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

But state Sen. Margaret Craven, the Senate chair of the Legislature’s Health and Human Services Committee, said she was setting aside time Wednesday for her committee to hold a public hearing on the measure.

The bill, LD 1487, “An Act To Implement Managed Care in the MaineCare Program” was carried over last July and as such, needs a simple majority to pass both chambers. However, it would need 2/3s vote as an emergency bill and to override a veto from Governor LePage, who is vehemently opposed to expansion.

Current thought is that LD 1578, “An Act To Increase Health Security by Expanding Federally Funded Health Care for Maine People”, would be tacked on as an amendment to the bill.

The Joint Standing Committee on Health and Human Services is scheduled for 3 pm work sessions tomorrow on LDs 1636 and 1663 after the conclusion of the legislative session (audio link here).
The news has garnered some positive and negative reactions among Republicans. Former LePage communications director Dan Demeritt posted on Twitter:

House GOP Communications Director David Sorensen fired off a press release before the senate caucus to media. Here is a portion:

      “Medicaid Mythbusters Round 1”

    Many of those eligible for Medicaid under an expansion would already be eligible for a federal health care subsidy, were they to buy their own health insurance on the private market.

    – The U.S. Congress, “can’t be trusted to sustain its Medicaid funding promises,” suggesting the state would be stuck footing the bill for any health care expansion.

    – An expansion of Medicaid would cause further defunding of existing state government programs including those that help pay for nursing home care.

Sorensen later took to Twitter himself, to share the following slap-down:

So what does all of this mean?

It would finally mean expansion of Medicaid to 70,000 Mainers, which Democrats have tried to do but been unsuccessful both as LD 1546, “An Act To Strengthen Maine’s Hospitals, Increase Access to Health Care and Provide for a New Spirits Contract” , the combination hospital debt payoff- Medicaid expansion- liquor contract bill and as the stand alone bill LD 1066, “An Act To Increase Access to Health Coverage and Qualify Maine for Federal Funding”.

This story is still unfolding and will be updated.

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Mainers Urge Lawmakers to Expand Medicare (Pix, Video)

Posted on January 9, 2014. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , |

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.”

    gina“I am a veteran of the U.S. Navy and lost my MaineCare coverage on December 31st,” said Thomas Ptacek of Portland. “My family has a history of multiple sclerosis and I worry that I, too, may have it someday. But my VA benefits are limited and will not cover the cost of preventative care or any treatment for the disease. I need MaineCare for that.”

    “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:

atwood

    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.

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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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Silly Season Continues in Augusta, As Fredette Mansplains and Hamper Croons Hotel California

Posted on June 18, 2013. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , |

UPDATED: Rep. Heather Sirocki (R-Scarborough)’s “American Pie” speech had some jaws dropping in the House.

Some days, one only needs a camera and popcorn when reporting on the Legislature…

MPA captured this moment from the floor of the House, in which Minority Leader Ken Fredette (R-Newport) explained in an especially sexist and misogynistic, out-dated and irrelevant way his objections to LD 1066, the Medicaid expansion bill, that later went viral:

    “As I listen to the debate today and earlier debate on this bill, I can’t help but think of a title of a book, Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus. And it’s a book about the fact that men sort of think one way in their own brain, in their own world. And women think another way in their own brain and in their own world. And it really talks about the way that men and women can do a better job at communicating.

    Because if you listen to the debate today, in my mind — a man’s mind — I hear two fundamental issues. From the other side of the aisle, I hear the conversation being about: free. ‘This is free, we need to take it, and it’s free. And we need to do it now.’ And that’s the fundamental message that my brain receives. Now, my brain, being a man’s brain, sort of thinks differently, because I say, well, it’s not — if it’s free, is it really free? Because I say, in my brain, there’s a cost to this.”

MPA, who shared the above clip, had this response from organizer Jennie Pirkl:

    “This isn’t about women and men; it’s about life and death. Rep. Fredette would probably say that I only think this way because of my ‘woman’s brain’, but I find it incredibly distasteful for him to use offensive, gender-based stereotypes to advance his anti-health care agenda,” said Maine People’s Alliance Health Care Organizer Jennie Pirkl.

    “What’s more, he’s lying about the bill. Even the conservative Heritage Foundation admits that accepting federal health care funding will save the state $690 million over the next decade while providing health care coverage for 70,000 more Maine people.”

To say that Fredett’e choice in tone and language in delivering his floor speech got some national attention would be an understatement… Think Progress picked it up immediately and from there, well… Jezebel had a bunch of fun with it!

Democratic Underground was next… and then Rachel Maddow:

    For the record, Fredette, the leader of Maine Republicans in the state House, did not appear to be kidding.

    After having watched it a couple of times, I’m still not sure what this state lawmaker is trying to say. Does he believe women are confused by federal-state partnerships in providing health care benefits? Does he think men necessarily oppose Medicaid expansion because of their male brains? Fredette certainly seems to be under the impression that he — with his “man’s mind” — is better able to understand health care costs that women apparently can’t see.

    And if that is what Fredette believes, there may be something wrong with his brain.

    As for the politics of this, I’m beginning to wonder if some kind of secret memo went out to Republican policymakers, telling them to be as offensive as possible so that women vote Democratic in even larger numbers. Just consider the recent evidence.

    For what it’s worth, later in the day, Fredette apologized for his “inartful” remarks. His man’s brain apparently came to realize he’d made an embarrassing mistake.

Rep. Diane Rusell, wearing her  "FIGHT LIKE A GIRL" pin on her lapel.

Rep. Diane Rusell, wearing her “FIGHT LIKE A GIRL” pin on her lapel.

Then we have Slate. And Huffington Post. And Glamour.

Political Wire. National Memo.

This list goes on and on…

As Rep. Diane Russell (D-Portland) said, blasting Fredette’s remarks:

    “I thought it was 2013, not 1813. Apparently, I was wrong.”

Word to the wise: Do NOT click on the Jezebel link and read that while recording video live on the floor of the House, like I did- think I bit right through my lip, trying to keep quiet!

Onward to the Senate…

This has got to be one of the strangest moments I personally have witnessed, bar none, in the Senate. Not sure if Sen. James Hamper (R-Oxford) was denouncing Medicaid expansion or if he thought it was Karaoke Night!

Who would have thought that an Eagles song, released in 1976, was in actuality penned as a take-down argument against Medicaid expansion…

The quoted lyrics:

    “On a dark desert highway, cool wind in my hair
    Warm smell of colitas, rising up through the air
    Up ahead in the distance, I saw a shimmering light
    My head grew heavy and my sight grew dim
    I had to stop for the night”

    “There she stood in the doorway;
    I heard the mission bell
    And I was thinking to myself,
    “This could be Heaven or this could be Hell”

    “Mirrors on the ceiling,
    The pink champagne on ice
    And she said “We are all just prisoners here, of our own device”

    “And in the master’s chambers,
    They gathered for the feast
    They stab it with their steely knives,
    But they just can’t kill the beast”

    “Last thing I remember, I was
    Running for the door
    I had to find the passage back
    To the place I was before
    “Relax, ” said the night man,
    “We are programmed to receive.
    You can check-out any time you like,
    But you can never leave! ”

Oh, to have one of the Democratic Senators stand and deliver the line: “You can’t hide your lying eyes”… or even better, this.

A reminder: Session supposedly ends this week. Stay tuned!

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Maine Senate Passes Initial Medicaid Expansion Bill LD 1066, 23-12

Posted on June 11, 2013. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , |

Last week, the Maine Senate voted 23-12 on LD 1066 “An Act To Increase Access to Health Coverage and Qualify Maine for Federal Funding” which would expand healthcare coverage to nearly 70,000 low-income and working Mainers. Assistant Minority Leader Roger Katz (R-Kennebec) added a “sunset provision” amendment of three years to the bill, which was supported by himself and fellow Republican Senators Pat Flood (Kennebec) Tom Saviello (Franklin).

Earlier he expressed support for a stand alone version of Medicaid expansion, as did Senator Brian Langley (Hancock) and Pat Flood (Kennebec).

Many of the GOP caucus rose to speak in opposition, including Minority Leader Senator Mike Thibodeau (Waldo).

Senator Doug Thomas (Somerset)

Senator James Hamper (Oxford)

Senator Garrett Mason (Androscoggin)

Senator David Burns (Washington)

Senator Andre Cushing (Penobscot)

Democrats stood together and supported the now stand alone measure, as they had LD 1546 a few weeks ago.

“People’s lives are on the line. We must put politics aside and do what is right for the people of Maine,” said Senate Majority Leader Seth Goodall of Richmond (VIDEO). “We cannot be siloed in one belief or another. When you need health care you are not thinking about political party lines, you are trying to do what’s best for your health. We have an opportunity to get it done and help Maine people.”

“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,” said Senator Geoff Gratwick of Bangor who is a practicing physician. “Accepting federal funds will strengthen Maine’s economy and provide health coverage to thousands of hard-working Mainers.”

“My philosophy is that everyone should have health insurance,” said Assistant Majority Leader Troy Jackson of Allagash (VIDEO). “If I wasn’t serving in this chamber, I would be one of the people covered under this act. I assure you I am able bodied, but without health insurance I would be 100% ruined at this point. The last operation I had cost more than $120,000. I won’t make that much money in six years. I don’t know what I would do if I didn’t have health insurance.”

Governor LePage’s office was quick to release a statement:

    “I will not entertain any discussions about welfare expansion until these 3,100 disabled and elderly Mainers are taken care of,” the Governor said. “The Legislature has ignored the needs of these citizens for years, but now the Democrats want to expand welfare to able-bodied adults with no children. Not only is that bad public policy, it’s a disgrace.”

    The Governor said his administration is still in negotiations with the federal government to get waivers that would allow the state to fix fraud and abuse within Maine’s welfare system. Welfare expansion would cost Maine millions of dollars annually if fraud and abuse in the existing system is not addressed.

    “Until we crack down on the fraud and abuse that robs hard-working Mainers of their tax dollars, I will not discuss any efforts to expand welfare,” the Governor said. “We do not need to burden hard-working taxpayers with additional costs for those who are not disabled. The Democrats have to stop discriminating against the disabled and elderly and treat them fairly.”

The House will take up the bill later this week.

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Maine House Testimony on LD 1066, Medicaid Expansion Bill (VIDEO)- Part 2

Posted on June 4, 2013. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , |

Videos in chronological order of speaker of the Maine House floor debate on LD 1066 (HP 759), “An Act To Increase Access to Health Coverage and Qualify Maine for Federal Funding”, sponsored by Representative Linda Sanborn (D-Gorham), June 3, 2013. The House passed the bill as amended 89-51 (11 absent) on Monday and faces the Senate for its first reading and vote tomorrow.

*Related: Maine House Testimony On LD 1066, Medicaid Expansion Bill (VIDEO)- Part 1

10. Rep. Josh Plante (D-Berwick) Speaks in Support of LD 1066 (Medicaid Expansion)

11. Rep. Ann Dorney (D-Norridgewock) Speaks in Support of LD 1066 (Medicaid Expansion)

12. Rep. Linda Sanborn (D-Gorham) Speaks in Support of LD 1066 (Medicaid Expansion)

13. Rep. Drew Gattine (D-Westbrook) Speaks in Support of LD 1066 (Medicaid Expansion)- Part 2

14. Rep. Erin Herbig (D-Belfast) Speaks in Support of LD 1066 (Medicaid Expansion)

15. Rep. Anne Graham (D-N Yarmouth) Speaks in Support of LD 1066 (Medicaid Expansion)

16. Rep. Henry Bear (Maliseet) Speaks in Support of LD 1066 (Medicaid Expansion)

17. Asst Majority Leader Jeff McCabe (D-Skowhegan) Speaks in Support of LD 1066 (Medicaid Expansion)

18. Rep. Craig Hickman (D-Winthrop) Speaks in Support of LD 1066 (Medicaid Expansion)

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Maine House Testimony on LD 1066, Medicaid Expansion Bill (VIDEO)- Part 1

Posted on June 4, 2013. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , |

Videos in chronological order of speaker of the Maine House floor debate on LD 1066 (HP 759), “An Act To Increase Access to Health Coverage and Qualify Maine for Federal Funding”, sponsored by Representative Linda Sanborn (D-Gorham), June 3, 2013. The House passed the bill as amended 89-51 (11 absent) on Monday and faces the Senate for its first reading and vote tomorrow.

1. Rep. Richard Malaby (R-Hancock) Speaks in Opposition of LD 1066 (Medicaid Expansion)

2. Rep. Drew Gattine (D-Westbrook) Speaks in Support of LD 1066 (Medicaid Expansion)- Part 1

3. Rep. Heather Sirocki (R-Scarborough) Speaks in Opposition of LD 1066 (Medicaid Expansion)

4. Rep. James Campbell (I-Newfield) Speaks in Support of LD 1066 (Medicaid Expansion)

5. Rep. Jane Pringle (D-Windham) Speaks in Support of LD 1066 (Medicaid Expansion)

6. Rep. Deb Sanderson (R-Chelsea) Speaks in Opposition of LD 1066 (Medicaid Expansion)

7. Rep. Paul McGowan (D-York) Speaks in Support of LD 1066 (Medicaid Expansion)

8. Rep. Lawrence Lochman (R-Amherst) Speaks in Opposition of LD 1066 (Medicaid Expansion)

9. Rep. Gay Grant (D-Gardiner) Speaks in Support of LD 1066 (Medicaid Expansion)

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Weekly Democratic Address by Rep. Drew Gattine (Westbrook): URGE GOVERNOR TO ACCEPT FEDERAL HEALTH CARE DOLLARS

Posted on June 1, 2013. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , |

Audio link here.

drew gattineWhen I’m out and about in my community, I meet a lot of hard-working Maine people – Mainers who put in an honest day’s work every day but can’t afford health insurance. This week, Maine got more great news about how 70,000 of our friends and neighbors can gain the security of health care coverage.

Good morning. I’m Representative Drew Gattine of Westbrook.

I’d like to talk to you about an amazing opportunity.

If we accept federal health care dollars under the Affordable Care Act, tens of thousands of working Mainers can have health insurance – at no cost to the state.

A lot of Maine communities are like Westbrook. Many folks have been hit hard by the Great Recession. They work hard but they don’t have jobs that provide insurance.

They can’t afford thousands of dollars for premiums, deductibles and co-pays. They certainly can’t afford to get sick. Doctor’s appointments and prescriptions mean there’s even less in the household budget for rent, groceries and fuel.

It doesn’t have to be that way. Maine can accept the federal government’s offer. And the time to act is now.

The federal government has agreed to pay 100 percent of the costs for three years. The feds expect that over ten years its average share will be over 94 percent.

This week, Gov. LePage received a letter from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid that once again confirms this great deal. But the governor keeps looking for excuses to reject this offer.

Democrats have already passed a bill that would complete the final debt payment to hospitals, prevent hospital costs from spiraling out of control and cover more Maine working families. It was a comprehensive solution.

The governor vetoed it.

In the past several months, Maine has received five different letters from the federal government. They all say that the state just needs to fill out some paperwork to secure 100 percent of funding for 70,000 Maine people.

You should know that the federal government has never missed a Medicaid payment to Maine. Not once in the 48 years we’ve had the program.

We can’t afford to delay. This offer does expire. We face a deadline of January 1, and there’s work to be done before then.

There are so many reasons that Maine should act.

First of all, it’s the right thing to do by working Maine families who deserve a family doctor.

It’s also good for Maine business. This deal will inject $250 million into our economy and create 3,100 new jobs.

Hospitals are big winners. They’ll get additional money to offset the free care they now provide – $163 million each year. Maine hospitals spend more than twice that amount in charity care and bad debt annually. These costs are passed on to all consumers.

Maine would save $690 million over the next decade if it accepts these federal dollars. That’s according to the nonpartisan Kaiser Foundation and the conservative Heritage Foundation.

States all over the country are seizing this opportunity. Maine is the sole New England state that isn’t helping its people with this deal.

In the West, states like California, Oregon and Washington are doing the right thing. In the Midwest, it’s states like Michigan, Illinois, Ohio and Minnesota. In the South, there’s Kentucky, Tennessee and Florida.

There are states with Democratic governors like New York and states with Republican governors like New Jersey.

The list goes on and on. So why are these states helping their folks get insurance while Maine isn’t?

Urge this administration to do the right thing. Tell the governor we don’t want any more excuses.

This is Representative Drew Gattine. Thank you for listening.

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(UPDATED) Maine Democrats Urge Support for Medicaid Expansion Bill LD 1066

Posted on May 29, 2013. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , |

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)

Rep. Linda Sanborn (D-Gorham) introduces LD 1066, “An Act To Increase Access to Health Coverage and Qualify Maine for Federal Funding”

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.

    mark eves
    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.

    Speaker of the House Mark Eves (N Berwick) addressing media, flanked by Senate President Justin Alfond (Portland) and House Majority Leader Seth Berry (Bowdoinham)

    Speaker of the House Mark Eves (N Berwick) addressing media, flanked by Senate President Justin Alfond (Portland) and House Majority Leader Seth Berry (Bowdoinham)

    Now is your opportunity with this bill – in this committee – with your vote. You can begin to make a difference right now.

    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.

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