Maine Senate Takes Up LD 1487, GOP (Katz, Saviello) Medicaid Expansion Bill

Posted on March 12, 2014. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , |

Senate video link to watch the floor debate.

Audio link here.

Senate Minority Leader Roger Katz (R-Kennebec)

Senate Minority Leader Roger Katz (R-Kennebec)

Last week, the Health and Human Services legislative committee voted out two of three Medicaid expansion bills to the full Maine legislature, LDs 1578, “An Act To Increase Health Security by Expanding Federally Funded Health Care for Maine People” offered by Speaker of the House Mark Eves and 1487, “An Act To Implement Managed Care in the MaineCare Program”, sponsored by Republican Senators Roger Katz, (R-Kennebec), who serves as Asst Minority Leader in that chamber, and fellow caucus member Tom Saviello (R-Franklin).

The last of the 3, Senate Majority Leader Troy Jackson’s sponsored LD 1640, “An Act To Enhance the Stability and Predictability of Health Care Costs for Returning Veterans and Others by Addressing the Issues Associated with Hospital Charity Care and Bad Debt”, has yet to be voted out by committee.

Earlier today, Democrats sent out a press release to remind about the positive effects of expansion for tens of thousands of Mainers and urging support of Senator Katz’s bill:

    The federal government has offered to pay 100 percent of the cost of health care for tens of thousands of Mainers under the Affordable Care Act. Key moderate Republicans and Democrats have worked on a bipartisan plan, LD 1487, to accept these funds.

    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.

    “Expanding access to healthcare will strengthen our economy and create jobs and save money, but most importantly, it will save lives,” said Senate Majority Leader Troy Jackson of Allagash. “Each one of the 70,000 people waiting to see if we will step up and do the right thing has a story to tell, a family they love, dreams and plans for their future, and a life to live. Let’s not let them down.

    This is a common sense bipartisan proposal saves lives, saves money and creates jobs. The bipartisan plan includes a managed care program to lower the cost of health care and hold government and providers accountable for making sure people have access to appropriate care at an appropriate time, while also ensuring fair prices. It also puts in place a plan to reduce the wait list for home care services for Mainers with intellectual disabilities and adds two new Medicaid fraud investigators to step up fraud prosecutions.

    “We have a good-faith compromise that would accept federal dollars to provide life-saving health care to 70,000 Mainers,” said House Speaker Mark Eves of North Berwick. “We have an opportunity to change lives for the better and improve the health of thousands of our neighbors. It’s the right thing to do.”

Here are some of the impacts, listed by county:

    Androscoggin:

  • 5,829 people would gain access to health care.
  • An additional $30 million will be spent annually on health care services by 2016, stimulating about $45 million in additional economic activity.
  • Expansion would create approximately 378 new jobs in the county.

    Aroostook:

  • 4,615 people would gain access to health care
  • Additional $24 million spent annually on health care services, $31 million total in additional economic activity
  • 280 new jobs

    Cumberland:

  • 12,018 people would gain access to health care
  • Additional $63 million spent annually, $104 million in additional economic activity
  • 846 new jobs

    Franklin:

  • 1,878 people would gain access to health care
  • Additional $10 million spent annually on health care services, $13 million in additional economic activity
  • 123 new jobs

    Hancock:

  • 3,235 people would gain access to health care
  • Additional $17 million spent annually on health care services, $23 million in additional economic activity
  • 204 new jobs

    Kennebec:

  • 5,997 people would gain access to health car;
  • Additional $32 million spent annually on health care services, $43 million in additional economic activity
  • 367 new jobs

    Knox:

  • 2,317 people would gain access to health care
  • Additional $12 million spent annually on health care services, $17 million in additional economic activity
  • 154 new jobs

    Lincoln:

  • 1,817 people would gain access to health care
  • Additional $10 million spent annually on health care services, $13 million in additional economic activity
  • 124 new jobs

    Oxford:

  • 3,806 people would gain access to health care
  • Additional $20 million spent annually on health care services, $25 million in additional economic activity
  • 231 new jobs

    Penobscot:

  • 8,447 people would gain access to health care
  • Additional $45 million spent annually on health care services, $66 million in additional economic activity
  • 545 new jobs

    Piscataquis:

  • 1,067 people would gain access to health care
  • Additional $6 million spent annually on health care services, $6 million in additional economic activity
  • 63 new jobs

    Sagadahoc:

  • 1,456 people would gain access to health care
  • Additional $8 million spent annually on health care services, $3 million in additional economic activity
  • 34 new jobs

    Somerset:

  • 3,590 people would gain access to health care
  • Additional $19 million spent annually on health care services, $23 million in additional economic activity
  • 207 new jobs

    Waldo:

  • 2,629 people would gain access to health care
  • Additional $14 million spent annually on health care services, $18 million in additional economic activity
  • 161 new jobs

    Washington:

  • 2,601 people would gain access to health care
  • Additional $14 million spent annually on health care services, $17 million in additional economic activity
  • 155 new jobs

    York:

  • 8,196 people would gain access to health care
  • Additional $43 million spent annually on health care services, $59 million in additional economic activity
  • 513 new jobs

Here again is a clip of Senator Katz introducing his bill to the committee on February 26:

The HHS committee votes on both LD 1487 and 1578 were straight party line votes, even though 1487 is sponsored by two Republican senators, and is indicative of the strong pressure being put onto GOP lawmakers formerly open to expansion by the LePage administration may be having some effect.

*RELATED:

March 4: LePage’s “Fine Young Cannibals”- And Some Food For Thought

February 25: (UPDATED) Maine GOP- Yes, REPUBLICANS!- To Attempt Compromised/ Combined Medicaid Expansion Bill

February 4: Boomerang Bills: Medicaid Expansion, Revenue Sharing- Now Right To Work?

January 16: Speaker Of The House Mark Eves (D-N Berwick) Presents LD 1578 Expanding Federally Funded Health Care In HHS Public Hearing (Video; Text)

January 16: Senate Majority Leader Troy Jackson (D-Allagash) Introduces LD 1640 To HHS Committee (Video; Text)

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LePage’s “Fine Young Cannibals”- and Some Food For Thought

Posted on March 4, 2014. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , |

Last week on February 24, Maine Governor Paul LePage put forth a press release with an unusual claim- that Maine state agencies were being “cannibalized by welfare spending”, due to Maine’s expansions years ago.

lepage sots angry self

    “Because Maine already expanded welfare a decade ago, Medicaid is now cannibalizing funding from all other state agencies,” said Governor LePage. “That means the state cannot fully pay its 55 percent share of local education costs. It cannot hire more Maine State Troopers or repair National Guard facilities. The state cannot adequately promote fishing and hunting programs or conduct research on our fisheries. It cannot expand job-training opportunities or properly fund programs for environmental emergencies. Everything the State of Maine does is adversely impacted by Medicaid spending. Now liberals want to expand welfare again.”

    “We simply cannot keep throwing money at an inadequate welfare program. The state is not meeting the health care needs of vulnerable Mainers, and adding more people to the welfare rolls will only exacerbate the problem,” Governor LePage said. “Expanding welfare a decade did not increase access or improve the quality of care, nor did it help uninsured Mainers. Now it is threatening all of the other programs and services Mainers expect from their state government.”

    “Our state is facing a fiscal crisis, and we need to examine our spending practices, evaluate the delivery of services and gain control of our welfare system,” said Governor LePage. “Maine’s economic security and future is at stake, and we must make hard choices. My challenge as Governor and our challenge as a state is to find ways to help Maine families prosper, improve the business climate, foster better educational opportunities while still protecting those most in need with limited resources. We cannot do that while Medicaid is consuming an inordinate amount of our finite financial resources.”

The messages were repeat statements of LePage’s February 19 weekly radio address and an earlier address from January 15 with much of the governor’s proof of his claims coming from the faulty Alexander Report, now repackaged as “The Feasibility of Medicaid Expansion under the Affordable Care Act” (PDF warning).

Senator Roger Katz (R-Kennebec)

Senator Roger Katz (R-Kennebec)

What had started the Governor’s discussion on refusing to expand Medicaid (despite numerous reports of how beneficial such expansion would be for Maine and support from the Maine Hospital Association) were plans by Democratic leaders to introduce of a pair of Medicaid expansion bills:

  • LD 1578, “An Act To Increase Health Security by Expanding Federally Funded Health Care for Maine People” sponsored by Speaker of the House Mark Eves (D-N Berwick)
  • LD 1640, “An Act To Enhance the Stability and Predictability of Health Care Costs for Returning Veterans and Others by Addressing the Issues Associated with Hospital Charity Care and Bad Debt” Senate Majority Leader Troy Jackson (D-Aroostook)’s bill

To date, neither bill has yet been voted out of HHS committee.

But the final straw? Learning that despite all of his best efforts, TWO MEMBERS OF HIS OWN REPUBLICAN CAUCUS (Senators Roger Katz and Tom Saviello) WERE GOING TO OFFER UP A THIRD MEDICAID EXPANSION BILL!!

So, not satisfied that his words were getting through to the public or legislators, the LePage administration decided to go further- and employ a desperate sort of “throw everything against the wall until something sticks” technique, by emailing various state agencies and demanding the communications directors supply public statements in regard to how expansion would adversely affect their budgets.

The results see below were sent out as part of a February 24 press release.

But apparently that STILL did not have the desired effect and impact- so on February 26, DHHS Commissioner Mary Mayhew hosted a large media event in Governor LePage’s cabinet room with a variety of department heads dutifully taking their turns and standing to speak to the gathered Maine press about how their budgets were being “cannibalized” by the monies going into DHHS, as well as a new LePage assertion that “Medicaid Expansion is Bad for the Environment”.

    Media Advisory: Medicaid Expansion is Bad for the Environment

    DSC_0027Medicaid expansion threatens programs, positions and services in all state departments. During the past three years, state government has eliminated and reduced funding in every state agency to pay for welfare costs.

    As Medicaid spending continues to consume the General Fund, there is less and less revenue for education, law enforcement, economic development and programs to protect our natural resources.

    On Wednesday, Feb. 26, the LePage Administration will hold a news conference with commissioners of natural resources agencies to focus on programs and services that will be impacted further should Medicaid expansion pass.

    media“Because Maine already expanded welfare a decade ago, Medicaid is now cannibalizing funding from all other state agencies,” said Governor LePage. “That means the state cannot adequately promote fishing and hunting programs or conduct research on our fisheries. It cannot expand job-training opportunities or properly fund programs for environmental emergencies. Everything the State of Maine does is adversely impacted by Medicaid spending. Now liberals want to expand welfare again.”

    In the 13 years since Maine expanded welfare, Medicaid enrollment has more than doubled, and its cost has grown by $1.3 billion. Medicaid now takes 25 percent of all General Fund revenue.

    More than $2 billion will be spent on Maine’s Medicaid program over the next two years. Even without expansion, Medicaid is projected to total more than 35 percent of the General Fund.

While the room was packed with currently serving GOP legislators, Republican legislative candidates, volunteers with signs held up opposing Medicaid expansion, bunches of Maine media and those speaking, Governor Paul LePage was nowhere to be seen and did not attend the press conference. Nor was his absence explained by staff.

Here are clips from that event.

A reminder: Mary Mayhew has time and time again, over the course of the three years since she took over the reins after the March 2011 abrupt firing of for Maine CDC Director then MaineCare head Dr. Dora Mills, never been able to get solid numbers on her department’s fiscal needs, outbound spending costs, over/ under payments, let alone satisfactory explanations of countless “IT issues”/ documented complaints to media or the Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee in the Legislature.

So that the crux of the LePage administration’s argument being that “Medicaid expansion will cause DHHS’ budgetary needs to grow to the point that other state agencies to suffer” seems to be either utterly oblivious of Mayhew’s horrendous mismanagement at best or completely disingenuous in ignoring the demonstrated and documented missteps (arguably the true cause of the “cannibalism”) at worst.

Skipping past the third option that the “unfunded $400 million tax cuts to the wealthy” chickens have come home to roost…

The media circus didn’t stop Senator Roger Katz (R-Kennebec), who went before the HHS Committee a few hours later and presented the bill that he and fellow Sen. Tom Saviello (R-Franklin) sponsored, LD 1487, “An Act To Implement Managed Care in the MaineCare Program”.

Videos here of the public hearing on LD 1487:

The two Republican senators, in preparation of the bill’s introduction, had spoken previously with Portland Press Herald at length and in detail about LD 1487:

    Katz and Saviello stopped by the newsroom this week and laid out a clear, compelling and perfectly rational argument behind their proposal:

      Senator Tom Saviello (R-Franklin)

      Senator Tom Saviello (R-Franklin)

      It would expand MaineCare, at long last, to those at or below 133 percent of the federal poverty line. What’s more, it would do so through a new, managed-care model run not by the state, but by private-sector providers that would compete for the opportunity to deliver health care, at a set fee per patient, to Maine’s neediest population.

    • It would “sunset” automatically in three years, when the 100 percent federal funding begins dropping incrementally to 90 percent. And if the feds reneged on their 100-percent promise before then, the plug would get pulled immediately.
    • It would require a nonpartisan analysis to help future lawmakers determine whether the expansion achieved its goals (including a 5 percent reduction in health delivery costs) over those three years and, more importantly, whether the program is worth preserving beyond the three-year cutoff.
    • It would eliminate those abhorrent waiting lists for developmentally disabled adults who need non-health services (they already receive MaineCare) to live fulfilling lives.

Now, here’s where things get a little odd.

Look at that earlier Governor’s Cabinet press conference Q&A clip again, paying particular attention to the 1:42 mark.

Mayhew is interrupted mid-explanation to WCSH’s Don Carrigan by an unseen woman speaking (to Mary’s right) and prompting the commissioner with a talking point. And Mayhew took it in stride, as if it was not a rather egregious breech to interrupt an administration official while on camera during a press conference.

Cumberland County GOP members instructed how to be props for LePage admin anti-Medicaid expansion press conference

Cumberland County GOP members instructed how to be props for LePage admin anti-Medicaid expansion press conference

Who was that woman? Well, let’s back up here, by about 2 hours- because between 9-11am that same morning down in the State House Welcome Center, a rather large group of supposed volunteers were assembled for a “legislative lobbying training session”.

In reality, the group were a bunch of well organized members of the Cumberland County Republicans, including chair/ state committee member Eric Lusk, vice chair Bill Gardner, former state senate candidates Michael Coleman, Eric Brakey (who also heads Maine’s Defender of Liberty PAC), Kristen Martin (who was the woman who later jumped in while Commissioner Mayhew was speaking at the press conference), former House GOP press officer Vic Bernadelli and others.

A few interesting moments on the clip:

    1. At 8:50 after summing up what had already been discussed including lobbying instructions, Lusk asked those who can stay to be up at the Governor’s office at 12:15, “there may be something of a gathering”, “please grab some signs”.

    2. At the 9:40 mark, Gardner discusses the placards as needing (paraphrase) “to get back the signs, they belong to Susan Dench of Informed Women’s Network; she takes them all over the place” (to events).

    3. Martin from 9:56 discusses reimbursements, as well as opines that the poor can get free care at the hospitals, with no bills to be paid.

    4. At the 10:45 mark Lusk is asked by an audience member why the younger citizens are targeted by the expansion and admits that the most cynical answer is that Democrats are trying to buy votes.

pacman thumbHang on a minute- because the “cannibalism” LePage meme first started out as a 1980s video game reference… PAC-MAN!

In late January, another anti-expansion group met in a similar gathering in the Welcome Center. Former Maine Legislator now head of Americans For Prosperity Maine Carol Weston held a press conference, speaking in opposition to Medicaid expansion and giving examples of how expansion would create financial challenges for local municipalities:

    Opponents of Maine’s controversial Medicaid expansion proposal say expanding the low income health insurance program will take away critical funds from schools and other state programs. The group called Americans a For Prosperity Maine said passage of the law will lead to what it called a “Medicaid Pac-Man” that will gobble up money needed for other essential services.

Carol Weston, Maine State Director of Americans for Prosperity, introduces Gov. Paul R. LePage at Hall of Flags rally in June 2013 (photo courtesy of The Maine Wire)

Carol Weston, Maine State Director of Americans for Prosperity, introduces Gov. Paul R. LePage at Hall of Flags rally in June 2013 (photo courtesy of The Maine Wire)

Notice how none of the speakers in the above clip mention how their local communities were at risk or would suffer adverse affects due to Governor LePage’s zero revenue sharing budget from last year.

It should be noted that the Legislature overwhelmingly passed LD 1762, restoring $40M in revenue sharing to Maine’s towns and the bill silently went into law unsigned last week.

Yet the same imagery of “cannibalism”, albeit via a Medicaid-fueled scribbled 1980’s PAC-Man hand drawing by Weston herself, was employed.

Coincidence that a similar AFP movement occurred in Virginia, despite that state’s hospitals pushing for expansion?

Doubtful.

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

Posted on January 16, 2014. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , |

The second bill that came up for public hearing yesterday before the HHS Committee was presented by Senate Majority Leader Troy Jackson. His bill, LD 1640, “An Act To Enhance the Stability and Predictability of Health Care Costs for Returning Veterans and Others by Addressing the Issues Associated with Hospital Charity Care and Bad Debt”, is designed to address the specific needs of Maine’s service members and other Mainers who find themselves excluded from the existing Affordable Care Act. Here is video of the senator’s address to the committee and his prepared speech.

(Note: As access to healthcare for all Mainers has long been a personal cause for Senator Jackson, he went off script on occasion to stress the need.)

    TESTIMONY FROM SENATOR TROY JACKSON IN SUPPORT OF LD 1640 AND 1578

    My name is Troy Jackson. I am from Allagash and I am the State Senator representing District 35, the northern most part of Aroostook County. I also serve as the Senate Majority Leader.

    I am the primary sponsor of LD 1640 and a co-sponsor of LD 1578, Presented by Speaker Eves. These bills will secure $263 million dollars from the federal government to expand Medicaid coverage to 69,500 hard working, deserving Mainers – including veterans. Right now these mainers face a future without health insurance and without adequate access to necessary, healing and life-saving medical care.

    troy hhsI want to remind this committee and all of my colleagues in both parties in the house and the senate that these bills represent our last chance to do right by Maine people and families who depend on our actions. If Governor LePage had not vetoed LD 1066 last year – or, if the legislature had stood up and over-ridden that veto – we would already be moving toward the goal of a unified, fair and open health care system for all Mainers regardless of income.

    Making public policy relies on both common sense treatment of facts and figures and on political philosophies. We know the governor’s philosophy. He called this effort to expand healthcare in Maine – and I quote from his veto message: “a massive increase in welfare expansion.”

    Let me be clear: health care is not welfare
    — not to me and not to a single one of the 69,500 mainers who will be left out in the cold if we do not bring them into our healthcare system.

    No – health care is not welfare. Health care is a basic necessity of life like food and shelter and fuel. Health care is a basic right.

    But I am not here to debate philosophy.

    I am here to push for action because time is running out to extend help to 69,500 Mainers who desperately need our leadership. If we do not expand Medicaid in Maine we will be failing as leaders. That failure would be wrong-headed and hard-hearted. It would be a heartbreaking tragedy for thousands of working Mainers and their families.

    troy standYes – working Mainers. The majority of people waiting to learn if they will have health care coverage do work.

    Sixty five percent of Maine’s uninsured live in a family where someone works full-time. And I want to emphasize that: full time.

    Full time in retail jobs, food service and restaurant jobs; full time in our hospitality industry; full time in office jobs, in manufacturing and construction, in transportation. They work full time on the waterfront and on our farms and in our forests. You and I – we all know them: they’re our friends and neighbors and family members.

    The next time you pay your bill at the local diner or a fancy restaurant, look your waiter in the eye and know this: that person is probably relying on you to offer help with health care.

    The next time you go through the grocery line and tell the cashier to have a nice day, that person is waiting to be covered by MaineCare.

    The next time you go to a local farmer’s market and buy local, that farmer and his workers are waiting for your decision to include them – not exclude them – from Maine’s health care system. And their children and loved ones are waiting, too.

    I would refer you to reports and analysis compiled by the Maine Center for Economic Policy for a clear sighted view. And I will highlight some of the findings that we must consider and weigh in order to make common sense public policy.

    And it is pure common sense to take the opportunity we have right now and accept federal funds to expand Medicaid in Maine, to help those working Mainers who find themselves locked out of access to health insurance and to take the next step toward a unified, fair health care system open to all Mainers.

    What is that opportunity?

    First: accept $263 million dollars of federal funding in order to close the coverage gap and insure Mainers who could go uninsured if we do not say yes to the federal government’s offer.

    That money will allow us to potentially cut in half the number of uninsured Mainers.

    So if you earn less than $15,856 on your own as an individual, or if you are the bread winner of a family of three earning less than $26,951, you will be eligible for Medicaid in Maine. You will gain access to a basic right.

    Second: let’s understand the reality of our State and act so we can both expand Medicaid coverage and provide a measure of fairness to rural Mainers. Many, many more working Mainers who may lose coverage and go without live in our most rural counties.

    If we do not expand Medicaid, we will penalize rural Mainers and undermine efforts to revive Maine’s rural economy.

    If we do not expand Medicaid, we will divide Maine yet again and increase the gap between haves and have nots, between rich and poor, south and north, urban and rural.

    The loss of basic health insurance would be crushing to individual families living in rural Maine, to businesses in rural Maine and to the very health care system designed to provide medical care. We must open our eyes to this reality.

    Let’s keep in mind – let’s always keep in mind – that our neighbors, friends and family members are those who are relying on us. These working Mainers are not statistics. They are individuals with a common need: healthcare coverage and medical care.

    But facts and figures do guide us to understanding what is best if we just say yes to medicaid expansion.

    For example, in Washington County more than 13% of people from age 18 to 64 will become eligible for Medicaid. And Washington County could receive more than nine million dollars to fund that expansion. In Somerset, 11 percent become eligible and the County receives more than twelve million dollars.

    In Waldo, almost eleven percent will get covered and the County gets almost ten million to help. In Androscoggin, 8.6 percent and twenty million get help. In Penobscot, 8.3 percent and thirty one million. In Aroostook 10.6 percent and sixteen million.

    The money available from the federal government goes into our State economy, creating jobs and generating state and local taxes. The money not only helps people in need, the money helps to expand Maine’s whole healthcare economy. In Penobscot, Androscoggin, Aroostook and Washington Counties as many as one in five jobs are in health care related businesses and services.

    Many of these jobs are held by women whose families rely on their earning power. According to the National Women’s Law Center, Medicaid-supported jobs held by women in Maine amount to more than 17,000 – and this number will increase when we say yes to Medicaid expansion in Maine.

    Third: The Federal funds that we accept to expand Medicaid bring healthcare and healthy benefits to working Mainers and to our economy. I’ve talked about the direct economic benefits from our decision to expand Medicaid. And there is the benefit that matters most to working people: more days on the job, earning a wage, making ends meet and fewer days off the job because they can’t afford medical care or receive ongoing care for chronic conditions or injuries.

    At a time when unemployment in rural Maine is chronically high, when low wage jobs offer little hope of economic security, with the minimum wage stuck in low gear, failure to expand Medicaid in Maine will add another strain on the budgets of working families. Failure to expand Medicaid will unfairly penalize rural Mainers and women who work in Medicaid-supported healthcare jobs. Failure to expand Medicaid will force Maine families to make terrible choices between basic necessities: food or fuel? Shelter or medical treatment? A warm winter coat or a drug prescription?

    To me, all of this makes our choice clear: just say yes to Medicaid expansion in Maine.

    Fourth: There are 2,700 veterans in Maine who would become eligible for care when we expand Medicaid. Don’t assume that all veterans young and old automatically receive care through the Veterans Administration. If we do not expand Medicaid, veterans will lose out – and perhaps live out their days without a basic right they fought for: and that’s the right to healthcare.

    troy pointFinally let me say a word about Medicaid. There is little or no administrative fat to cut in Medicaid. Ninety-six percent of Medicaid spending goes to pay for health care and long-term care for Maine people – not for administrative overhead. Medicaid works to control healthcare costs for all of us.

    A failure to expand this program here in Maine will mean that older people, working people, low-income children, individuals with disabilities and even returning veterans will have no where to turn but the emergency room. Or worse, they will put off care and suffer pain and ill health silently, without complaint. Is that right?

    Especially when every lawmaker in Augusta has access to government funded health insurance?

    Will we ask working Mainers to take a dose of Yankee stoicism because we won’t use common sense and offer a little Yankee practicality? That’s what it comes down to.

    Accept the Federal Government’s offer of help, and use $263 million dollars to cut in half the number of uninsured Mainers.

    Use this money to bolster our State economy, and to provide access to a basic right.

    Act now because 69,500 Maine people we know – who live down the road or around the corner, whose children go to school with our children, who sit in the pew every Sunday in church with us, who work with us, who are a living, breathing vital part of our communities – act now because these Mainers are relying on our leadership.

    Thank you and I urge you to move this legislation forward as rapidly as possible.

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Speaker of the House Mark Eves (D-N Berwick) presents LD 1578 Expanding Federally Funded Health Care in HHS public hearing (Video; text)

Posted on January 16, 2014. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , |

Yesterday Speaker of the House Mark Eves (D- N Berwick) presented his bill, LD 1578, “An Act To Increase Health Security by Expanding Federally Funded Health Care for Maine People” before the Health and Human Services Committee in a packed public hearing. Here is a clip of his address to committee members and released text of his prepared remarks.

    Testimony in Support of LD 1578, “An Act To Increase Health Security by Expanding Federally Funded Health Care for Maine People”

    Good morning, Senator Craven, Rep. Farnsworth and members of the Joint Standing Committee on Health and Human Services. It’s a great privilege to be before you today to present my bill to accept federal health care dollars to cover 70,000 Maine people, including nearly 3,000 veterans.

    LD 1578 would provide life-saving health care to tens of thousands of Mainers. It directs the state to accept 100 percent federal funding to cover more Maine families under the Affordable Care Act.

    This is an unprecedented bargain for the state. It’s a good deal. Not only would it provide critical care to Mainers in need, it would also save money in the state’s general fund and generate hundreds of millions in economic activity. The federal government would literally pick up the tab for state programs, freeing up state dollars for other key programs.

    eves cmteNow more than ever, it is critical for Maine to accept these federal dollars. On Jan. 1 — only a few short weeks ago — nearly 25,000 Mainers, including nearly 15,000 working parents whose children depend on them to stay healthy to go to work each day, are losing their health care. They lost this care for one simple reason: because the state turned down this bargain from the federal government.

    Like so many of you, I hear from constituents on different issues. Earlier this week, I had a heart breaking call from a woman, Amy, whose family had lost their health care in January. Her husband is a type-1 diabetic and they simply couldn’t afford to fill his insulin prescription. They went to the pharmacy at Shaws and it was $203.00 per bottle. She was scared. Her husband needs his medicine, but they don’t have an extra $400 to $600 a month to pay for his critical insulin. She works and so does her husband. She doesn’t want a hand out, but her employer doesn’t provide health insurance and she can’t afford to buy private insurance.

    Amy is not alone. There are hundreds of people just like her, whose lives have changed because of decisions we make in this building every day. You will hear from many of them today. We are talking about life-saving health care. I urge you to really listen.

    Over the past few months, I’ve worked to address some of the concerns I’ve heard from lawmakers. This bill is tri-partisan –it has four Republican co-sponsors, one independent and five Democrats.

    It includes good-faith effort to bring all parties together:

    ● A sunset provision after 3 years, prior to the decline in federal funding to 90 percent.

    ● An opt-out provision if the federal government breaks its commitment before the 3 year period

    ● It requires a co-pay from individuals utilizing the program.

    ● Creates a MaineCare Stabilization Fund to pool savings accrued from accepting the federal dollars

    This is a true compromise.

    I am ready and willing to consider any idea that will allow this life-saving care for Maine families to move forward. It’s too important. Too much is at stake. We can do this if we turn down the rhetoric and the politics and look at the facts:

    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.

    And these are the facts.

    Maine could prevent around 395 deaths per year by accepting federal funds. (Harvard Study) and we will lose out on millions of dollars if we don’t (RAND Study). We have an opportunity to save our state more than $600 million dollars by accepting these funds (Kaiser).

    These are facts from non-partisan; independent research institutes.

    With each day that passes, Maine loses out on an additional $700,000 per day, $500 per minute totaling 250 million a year.

    Maine will miss out on as many as 4,400 jobs and over half a billion dollars in annual economic activity by 2016 (MECEP).

    Many of the people who could get health care if we accept these funds are Mainers who work at low-paying jobs in our grocery stores or construction sites or home care providers that don’t get health care benefits through their jobs. There are even veterans whose ailments aren’t covered through the VA.

    We can truly put aside partisanship to accept federal dollars to increase access to healthcare for working people in our state. Republican and Democratic governors across the country have done it.

    In closing, I would like to echo the words of the Maine Hospital Association in a recent OpEd in the KJ, “Mainers routinely support initiatives to fund highway and clean water projects with federal match rates far below 90 percent, and we see no reason to forgo this level of funding just because it’s health care. If this were an opportunity for federal dollars for a ship at Bath Iron Works or a defense contract or for highways and bridges, we would be jumping at the opportunity and celebrating.”

    This is an opportunity that we should not pass up. Increasing access to healthcare for more Maine people is the right moral and economic thing to do.

    Thank you for listening. I’d be glad to take questions at this time.

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