Mainers Gather at Huge “Save Healthcare Rally” in Portland

Posted on January 15, 2017. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , |

Approximately 800-1200 Mainers came together at a rally on the steps of Portland City Hall today, one of dozens of similar events across the country, urging Congress not to scrap the Affordable Care Act. Here is full video of the event:

 

Maine Senate Democratic Leader Troy Jackson of Allagash, who has been a strong advocate for healthcare over the years, gave an impassioned speech:

 

Photos here of the rally.

Prior to the rally, Congresswoman Pingree met with almost a dozen constituents at a round table discussion inside City Hall. She told those gathered that they were among over 1000 families that had written to her recently, urging that she vote to save the Affordable Care Act.

Video here of the round table.

From left to right:

1. Daniel Brouder of Cumberland Foreside
2. Emily Ingwersen of Arundel
3. Lynda Bond
4. Katie MacDonald of Portland
5. Congresswoman Chellie Pingree
6. Alyra Donisvitch
7. Briana Volk of Portland
8. Andrew Volk of Portland
9. Ruth Dean of South Portland
10. Mary Henderson of Topsham

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Kentucky Senators McConnell and Paul on Hot Mic Discuss Gov’t Shutdown Messaging Strategy

Posted on October 3, 2013. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , |

Interesting hot mic moment between Kentucky’s Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and junior Senator Rand Paul caught yesterday:

    Paul: Do you have a second?

    McConnell: I’m all wired up here. Um.

    Paul: I just did CNN. I just go over and over again, “We’re willing to compromise; we’re willing to negotiate- I think- I don’t think they poll tested ‘we won’t negotiate’. I think it’s awful for them to say that, over and over again.

    McConnell: Yeah, I do, too. And I just came back from the two hour meeting, myself, and that was basically the same view privately as it was earlier-

    Paul: I think if we keep saying ‘we wanted to defund it; we fought for that and now we’re willing to compromise on this’… I think they can’t- I mean we’re gonna- I think- well, I know we don’t want to be here, but we’re gonna win this, I think.

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Weekly Democratic Address by Senate Majority Leader Troy Jackson: Time for Governor LePage to Stop Excuses, Expand Health Care to More Maine People

Posted on September 21, 2013. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , |

troy jackson nmt

    (NOTE: Links beyond the audio radio address are my own addition. ~AP)

    DEMOCRATIC RADIO ADDRESS (AUDIO)

    Jackson says: it is time for the governor to stop the excuses and expand health care to more Maine people because it’s the right economic and moral thing to do

Good Morning. This is Senate Majority Leader, Troy Jackson of Allagash.

There are some things worth debating, like taxes and budgets. But lately, there has been one issue that some, including Governor LePage, have decided to turn in to a political football—expanding health care to more Maine people.

Right now, Maine has an opportunity to at no cost, expand health care to tens of thousands of hard working Mainers, including 3,000 veterans. If Maine does not accept this offer to expand health care, then people will go without and the deal will be lost. With people’s lives on the line, we should not be debating whether or not it’s the right thing to do. The answer is clear.

To me, and to many of my colleagues, making sure that you can go to the doctor—that you can afford the doctor’s visit when you are sick, is not debatable. It’s a basic right— one that ensures a healthier and a longer life and for folks to keep working to provide for their families.

Earlier this week, my Democratic colleagues called on the governor to stop making excuses to deny and delay health care.

We called on him to look beyond his rhetoric and join all the other Republican Governors who put aside partisanship and political games to accept federal dollars and expand health care for the people in their state.

Instead, this week, Governor LePage doubled down on his deny and delay tactics and spread misinformation about the Mainers who need healthcare. Worse, his tactics attempt to pit Mainers against each other by vilifying people who have no other choice but to turn to Medicaid or Medicare for their health care.

The Mainers who don’t have health insurance, and could benefit from expanding health care, look like you and me. In fact, if I weren’t in the legislature, I wouldn’t have health insurance because as a logger from Allagash, I can’t afford it.

My friend Ryan Kelly was also a logger from Allagash, and he didn’t have health insurance. He did have a heart condition that he couldn’t get treatment for— and he died at the age of 26, leaving behind a four year old daughter.

I, too have a heart condition— one that is very similar to the one my friend Ryan had. But because I have health insurance, I can afford to get the care I need— and I’m alive. I can’t help thinking that’s the reason that I’m still here today— I have health insurance.

We should be throwing people like Ryan a line, not pulling up the ladder behind us.

Health care is a right and no one should be left behind.

So why does Governor LePage think that he and the government can choose who deserves health care and who doesn’t? He has health insurance. Perhaps it’s easy to judge when you have something that others do not.

He doesn’t think that if you drink or smoke you deserve health insurance so you can see a doctor. What about if you wear glasses? Or have a pre-existing condition? Where do you draw the line— and who is he to be the judge and jury on people’s lives.

In January, there are 25,000 people— that’s more than the entire population of Auburn— who currently have Medicaid and will lose their health care because of the governor’s decision. I wonder what he’ll say to them? How he, a man with health insurance, will tell 25,000 Mainers they’re not worth it?

Well, I can tell you that I don’t believe I or anyone else has the right to deny health care to others just because they are sick.

I don’t want to live in a state where we turn our back on those in need.

In January, when the Legislature reconvenes we will continue fighting so that every family has a family doctor. And it is time for the governor to stop the excuses, stop dividing our state, and join what doctors, hospitals, businesses, and Mainers know: Expanding health care to more Maine people is the right economic and moral thing to do.

Thank you for listening. This is Senate Majority Leader Troy Jackson of Allagash. Have a great weekend.

*Related: Troy Jackson’s Heart

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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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(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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ICYMI: Maine Speaker of the House Mark Eves Urges Passage of Medicaid Expansion Bill LD 1546 (Video; Text)

Posted on May 28, 2013. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , |

(On Wednesday (5/29/13), the House is expected to take up LD 1546 again in an evening session. Here again is the floor speech of Speaker of the House Mark Eves (D-N Berwick), urging his colleagues in the House join him in supporting this important bill. ~AP)

(Over 50 clips of individual House members rose to deliver testimony both in support and in opposition last night, as the bill LD1546, “An Act To Strengthen Maine’s Hospitals, Increase Access to Health Care and Provide for a New Spirits Contract” got its first reading and roll call votes in the House. More to follow. ~AP)

Below is the full text of Speaker Eves’ remarks as prepared and released to media. Note: House Majority Leader Seth Berry (D- Bowdoinham) served as Speaker Pro Tempore. Video link here.

    “Thank you Mr. Speaker pro-tem.

    Ladies and gentlemen of the House, I rise this evening to speak to an issue of great importance to me, and to the people of the state of Maine.

    Speaker of the House Mark Eves gives a rare speech from the floor, urgung members to join him in support of LD 1546, "An Act To Strengthen Maine's Hospitals, Increase Access to Health Care and Provide for a New Spirits Contract"

    Speaker of the House Mark Eves gives a rare speech from the floor, urgung members to join him in support of LD 1546, “An Act To Strengthen Maine’s Hospitals, Increase Access to Health Care and Provide for a New Spirits Contract”

    I rise to speak in favor of the pending motion to accept the majority ought to pass as amended report, and by doing so, accept a comprehensive measure that would make a final payment on Maine’s hospital debt and reduce future hospital costs by accepting federal health care dollars to cover tens of thousands of Mainers.

    Today lawmakers have an opportunity to pay back the debt owed to our hospitals and contain the rising costs of health care for our people and our hospitals.


    We have an opportunity together to do three things in one bill:

    Help our hospitals, help working Mainers who need health care, and help our economy.

    For 4 years, I served on the Health and Human Services Committee where we would consistently hear about the amount of charity care and bad debt the hospitals absorbed and then shifted onto working families with insurance and onto Maine businesses.

    When people without insurance get sick, they often end up getting care in the emergency room — where it is the most costly, least efficient way of providing care. Just last year, the Maine Hospital Association reported that Maine hospitals provided $450 million dollars in charity care and bad debt.


    The hospitals can not afford this and neither can we!

    In the proposal before us, not only do we pay back our hospitals, but we also ensure that thousands of Mainers can see a doctor when they are sick. By doing so, we reduce the charity care costs and bad debt that are cost drivers for our hospitals. This is a win for our hospitals and for every family in Maine who has insurance today.

    For several months, we’ve talked about the nearly 70,000 Mainers, many of them who are working but can’t afford health insurance, who would be eligible for coverage under this legislation.

    The number is so large and has been repeated so often, it’s easy to forget what it actually means.

    We could cut the number of people in Maine without health insurance in half.

    Seventy thousand people: That’s equivalent to the population of Aroostook County. Or Somerset and Piscatiquis counties together.

    The county by county numbers are compelling.

    Residents and hospitals in Maine’s most rural counties have the most to gain.

    · In Washington: 2,601 people would gain health care;$9.3 million in economic activity

    · In Somerset: 3,590 people would gain health care; $12.9 million in economic activity

    · In Waldo: 2,629 people would gain health care; $9.7 million in economic activity

    · In Oxford: 3,806 people would gain health care; 13.7 million in economic activity

    · In Aroostook: 4,615 people would gain health care; 16.8 million in economic activity

    · In Piscataquis: 1,067 people would gain health care; $4.0 million in economic activity

    · In Franklin: 1,878 people would gain health care; $6.9 million in economic activity

    · In Knox: 2,317 people would gain health care; $8.6 million in economic activity

    · In Hancock: 3,235 people would gain health care; $12.9 million in economic activity

    · In Lincoln: 1,817 people would gain health care; $6.6 million in economic activity

    · In Androscoggin: 5,829 people would gain health care; $20 million in economic activity

    · In Penobscot: 8,447 people would gain health care; $31.6 million in economic activity

    · In Kennebec: 5,997 people would gain health care; $20.8 million in economic activity

    · In Sagadahoc: 1,456 people would gain health care; $5.3 million in economic activity

    · In Cumberland: 12,018 would gain health care; $46.6 million in economic activity

    · In York: 8,196 would gain health care; $29.7 million in economic activity

    Now think of one of those 70,000 Mainers. Take Marie from Bangor. She has a part-time job that doesn’t provide health insurance. She also has a serious heart condition that doesn’t allow her to work full time. Without health insurance for her or her family, she is forced to choose between putting gas in her car and paying her medical and utility bills.

    This is not a hypothetical scenario. They are the hard facts for too many Mainers. And THIS is an ethical and moral dilemma for all of us.

    Unfortunately, Marie is one of tens of thousands of Mainers – many of your constituents – who are unable to afford health insurance.

    The personal stakes are high for thousands of people who could receive life-saving access to health care. But there is also a tremendous opportunity for our entire state.

    The Maine health care economy is the largest single job provider in the state of Maine. Healthcare jobs account for 1 in 4 jobs in Maine. By accepting these federal health care dollars we will inject $250 million dollars into our health care economy, creating more than 3,000 jobs.

    It is estimated that Maine hospitals would receive $163 million each year in additional revenue if we were to accept the federal dollars. This will help alleviate the current burden hospitals are facing and make sure we prevent future debt from accumulating so that we avoid a situation like this in the future.

    Maine’s hospital debt is a symptom of our high health care costs.

    This comprehensive measure pays the debt and helps fix the underlying problem that contributes to high health care costs in the first place. We don’t just treat the symptom; we treat the problem.

    The federal government has agreed to fully cover the cost for health care for tens of thousands of Mainers for the next three years, and gradually lowers its payment to no less than 90 percent of the cost over a decade. There is no cost to the state — in fact, we will save money.

    Maine is projected to save $690 million in the next 10 years if we accept the federal dollars, according to the nonpartisan Kaiser Foundation. These numbers are also confirmed by the conservative Heritage Foundation.

    We are one of 10 states that will actually see our Medicaid expenditures go down!

    If we want to save money in our Medicaid account, which I believe we all do, we must accept these federal health care dollars.

    This could change the lives of tens of thousands of Maine people who fear getting sick because they can’t afford to see a doctor when they need it most.

    Accepting these federal funds to increase health care coverage for more working Mainers is morally and economically the right thing to. And it makes sense to do it as part of a comprehensive package that repays Maine’s hospital debt. It both addresses the costs of health care for our hospitals and our people. To do one without the other, would leave the job half done.

    It’s a good deal. One we cannot walk away from!

    That’s why Republican governors across the country have sized up the proposal and have decided to accept the funds.

    Republican Governor Jan Brewer of Arizona has said turning away federal Medicaid dollars would increase human suffering and further cripple hospitals and other health care providers that care for the uninsured.

    Gov. Brewer recently said, “Being governor is tough — you have to make tough decisions and you have to look at the whole state, you have to do what’s right. Without expansion, “we would’ve had to go in and get people off of Medicaid, they would still be in our hospitals, you would still be paying for them.”

    Gov. Brewer’s bill to accept these federal dollars is accurately called the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment Measure. Gov. Brewer gets it!

    In New Jersey, Republican Governor Chris Christie has made a similar case:

    He said in a speech before the legislature unveiling his budget. “It’s simple. We are putting people first.”

    “Expanding Medicaid is the smart thing to do for our fiscal and public health” and will “ensure New Jersey taxpayers will see their dollars maximized.”

    Gov. Christie gets it!

    This should not be a political issue. We all agree we should pay the hospitals.

    But we are at an impasse over health care for tens of thousands of Maine people.

    The members of this body have a choice to make. Will you support a plan that pays the hospitals and accepts federal health care dollars to cover more Mainers? Or will you chose to deny and delay health care for tens of thousands of Maine people — putting politics ahead of the people’s health and our hospitals?

    I urge you to see this for what it is — a compromise that would benefit the state as a whole.

    This is how state government should function.

    In a divided government, neither party can get anything done by demanding all or nothing.

    I urge you to join me in supporting the pending motion. Now is the time to act.

    Thank you.”

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Maine Senate Passes Historic Medicare Expansion, Hospital Repayment Bill LD 1546 Along Party Lines

Posted on May 21, 2013. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , |

Yesterday in a 20-15 vote, the Senate passed an historic measure to repay Maine’s hospital debt and accept federal funds to expand healthcare coverage for nearly 70,000 Mainers.

As passed, the bill (LD 1546) also makes the final payment to Maine hospitals, totaling $485 million in state and federal dollars. Maine hospitals will also receive an additional $163 million a year in federal dollars for treating newly insured Maine residents if Maine accepts the federal health care dollars.

100_5426Nearly 70,000 Maine people can receive healthcare coverage as soon as Maine accepts the federal government’s offer. The federal government has agreed to pay 100% of the cost for covering all newly eligible people for the first three years and then gradually lowering its payment to no less than 90 percent of the cost by 2020. Maine is projected to save $690 million in the next 10 years when it accepts the federal dollars, according to the nonpartisan Kaiser Foundation and the conservative Heritage Foundation. Maine is also one of 10 states that will see Medicaid expenditures go down over the next 10 years. Nearly 70 percent of Maine people support accepting federal health care dollars to increase access to health care, according to the nonpartisan Maine People’s Resource Center.

According to the Maine Hospital Association, both bad debt and charity care cost $450 million last year, an increase of $32 million from the previous year. Insuring nearly 70,000 Mainers will reduce hospital charity care and bad debt costs. The Maine Hospital Association has stated its support for paying back the hospitals and accepting federal health care dollars. According to the Maine Center for Economic Policy, accepting federal dollars would inject an additional $250 million of federal funding into Maine’s economy and create more than 3,100 jobs with more than 1,700 jobs in the healthcare industry alone.

During Monday’s debate, many Senators shared personal stories of people’s lives that will be impacted if the state accepts the federal government’s offer.

    “The time for delaying and denying healthcare to thousands of Maine people has passed. The time for action is now,” said Senator Margaret Craven of Lewiston. “Too many Mainers are one illness or accident away from financial ruin. It doesn’t have to be that way.”

    “Passing this bill is fiscally responsible, medically responsible, and morally responsible,” said Senator John Cleveland of Auburn. “The legislature can make that decision. We have it in our power to pay our debt to the hospitals and provide healthcare to the poorest in our communities.”

    Assistant Majority Leader Troy Jackson of Allagash spoke about two neighbors in his hometown who had health problems similar to his own. “Of the three of us, I was the only one with health insurance, I could afford to get the care I need, and I’m the only one who is alive. I can’t help thinking that’s the reason: I had health insurance. We should be throwing people like them a line, not pulling up the ladder behind us.”

    Senator Emily Cain of Orono reminded the body that, Fundraisers are not health care. People are not widgets. We must accept this offer.”

    “To be absolutely clear, medical insurance is not welfare. Medical insurance keeps people healthy. The patients who come to see me with insurance do much better than those without,” said Senator Geoff Gratwick of Bangor, who is also a practicing physician. “From my perspective as a physician, voting against this bill is a vote to cripple Maine, both literally and figuratively. Maine hospitals and Maine people both win with this bill. Maine’s hospital debt is a symptom of our high healthcare costs. Not only do we have to pay back our hospitals, but we have to address how we got here. By ensuring that thousands of Mainers can see a doctor when they are sick, we will keep the healthy at work. We will reduce the charity care costs and the debt our hospitals are accruing. To pay the hospitals without reducing their costs moving forward would leave the job half done.”

    “We are addressing the costs of health care for Maine people and hospitals,” said Senate Majority Leader Seth Goodall of Richmond. “What’s more, we’re doing it all in one fell swoop. That’s efficient. That’s good government. That’s what we were sent here to do.”

More clips in support of LD 1546 of Democratic Senators John Tuttle of Sanford, Chris Johnson of Somerville, John Patrick of Rumford (Part 1) (Part 2) and Independent Dick Woodbury of Freeport.

The bill, LD 1546, “An Act To Strengthen Maine’s Hospitals, Increase Access to Health Care and Provide for a New Spirits Contract,” faces additional votes in the House and Senate.

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UPDATED w/UStream Coverage: Emergency Appropriations Committee Meeting TODAY on LePage, Mayhew “DHHS Broke in 3 Weeks” Claims

Posted on May 19, 2013. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , |

(Fingers crossed that this UStream works; first attempt at live event feed. ~AP)


Link to our new UStream Channel.

AFA emergency session agenda

AFA emergency session agenda

In light of the news late Friday that despite multiple supplemental budgets for FY ’12-13, DHHS doesn’t have enough money to pay its bills (again), an emergency meeting for the AFA committee has been called for today. Commissioner Mary Mayhew has been requested to appear to answer questions.

    lepage mayhewDemocratic leaders questioned why LePage sent a letter to them on a Friday evening rather than request a meeting to discuss the urgent news. Alfond and Eves also requested Mayhew appear before the Legislature’s budget-writing Appropriations Committee on Sunday to answer questions. The committee is holding weekend sessions as the Legislature’s June 19 adjournment date approaches.

    “The timing and intent of this letter is questionable,” Eves said in a prepared response. “It seems more geared toward fear mongering than problem solving. We have been pleased with the bipartisan work of the Appropriations Committee for the last five months. In order for their work to continue, we must get answers.”

    Alfond said Mayhew needs to “address the administration’s potential mismanagement of this situation.”

The committee was previously scheduled to work on the FY 14-15 budget today, but is adding time to speak with Mayhew about the letters sent out late Friday by herself and Governor LePage (see below). Among the possibilities is separating the change package presented last week from the FY 14-15 budget, a move that the administration appears reluctant to support at this time.

Here is a list of the committee members:

    Membership

    Senator Dawn Hill (D-York), Chair

    Senator Emily Ann Cain (D-Penobscot)

    Senator Patrick S. A. Flood (R-Kennebec)

    Representative Margaret R. Rotundo (D-Lewiston), Chair

    Representative Michael E. Carey (D-Lewiston)

    Representative Linda F. Sanborn (D-Gorham)

    Representative Megan M. Rochelo (D-Biddeford)

    Representative Aaron M. Frey (D-Bangor)

    Representative Erik C. Jorgensen (D-Portland)

    Representative Kathleen D. Chase (R-Wells) *

    Representative Tom J. Winsor (R-Norway)

    Representative Tyler Clark (R-Easton)

    Representative Dennis L. Keschl (R-Belgrade)

    *Ranking Minority Member

Audio link here. Fingers crossed, I hope to have this live streaming video feed up and running as well.

DHHS Commissioner Mary Mayhew letter to Governor LePage

Governor LePage letter to Democratic Leadership:

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Weekly Democratic Address by Rep Linda Sanborn (Gorham): Governor LePage Should Sign Our Comprehensive Plan to Pay Maine’s Hospitals

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

Audio link here.

linda sanbornIn the coming days, the state of Maine has an opportunity to pay back the debt owed to our hospitals and contain the rising costs of health care for our people and hospitals.

The Legislature will be sending Governor Paul LePage a bill to pay back Maine’s hospitals and to accept federal health care dollars to cover nearly 70,000 Maine people.

It’s an offer he shouldn’t refuse.

Good morning, I’m Representative Linda Sanborn – a retired family physician from Gorham.

Democrats have put forward a comprehensive plan that not only pays the debt; we make sure we don’t get back here in the future.

Maine’s hospital debt is a symptom of our high health care costs.

As a family physician, I can tell you first hand that when people without insurance get sick, they often end up getting care in the emergency room — where it is most costly. The cost of that care is often picked up by hospitals in the form of “charity care” and then passed on to anyone with private insurance.

By accepting federal health care dollars to cover more Maine families we reduce the charity care and bad debt that costs Maine hospitals $450 million dollars last year alone.

To do one without the other, would leave the job half done.

Our plan pays the debt and helps fix the underlying problem that contributes to high healthcare costs in the first place. We don’t just treat the symptom; we treat the problem.

The federal government has agreed to fully cover the cost for health care tens of thousands of Mainers for the next three years, and gradually lowers its payment to no less than 90 percent of the cost over a decade. There is no cost to the state — in fact we will save money. Maine is projected to save $690 million in the next 10 years if it accepts the federal dollars, according to the nonpartisan Kaiser Foundation.

This could change the lives of tens of thousands of Maine people who fear getting sick because they can’t afford to see a doctor when they need it most.

Take Marie from Bangor. She has a part-time job that doesn’t provide health insurance. She also has a serious heart condition that doesn’t allow her to work full time. Without health insurance for her or her family, she is forced to choose between putting gas in her car or paying her medical and utility bills.

Or, Patty Kidder of Sanford and her husband lost their health care coverage, like so many Mainers, when her husband lost his job at Spencer Press during the recession. Or, Tom Ptacek a U.S. Navy Veteran who works part time and has a non-service related problem that the VA doesn’t cover.

Marie, Patty, and Tom were among the many who urged lawmakers to pass this bill.

Unfortunately, they are not alone. This is a reality for tens of thousands of Mainers who are unable to afford health insurance.

Accepting these federal funds to increase health care coverage for more working Mainers is the right thing to. And it makes sense to do it as part of a comprehensive package that repays Maine’s hospital debt. It both addresses the costs of health care for our hospitals and our people.

It’s a good deal. That’s why Republican governors across the country have taken the funds.

Governor LePage has a choice to make: Will he support a plan that pays the hospitals and accepts federal health care dollars to cover more Mainers? Or will he retreat into an ideological corner, putting politics ahead of the people’s health?

People’s lives are on the line. Now is the time to act.

Thank you for listening. I’m Rep. Linda Sanborn.

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Maine Democratic Leaders, Others Urge Passage of Comprehensive Health Care Bill

Posted on May 16, 2013. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , |

Video of today’s press conference here.

The accompanying press release:

      Lives on the Line: Mainers Tell Personal Stories

    Mainers urge passage of comprehensive bill managing health care costs for hospitals and people

    AUGUSTA — Mainers on Thursday urged Gov. Paul LePage and the Legislature to accept federal health care dollars under a comprehensive health care bill proposed by Democrats, saying their lives depend on gaining access to critical care.

    U.S. Navy veteran Tom Ptacek will lose his health care coverage in January if the state does not act. Ptacek, who has experienced homelessness in the past, said health care coverage is key to moving ahead.

    “Not knowing whether your medical needs or possible future medical needs are covered weighs on you. It’s having that security that helps you get up and go to work every day and go on with your life,” he said.

    The Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee, which has been overseeing a plan to complete the hospital repayment through the refinancing of the state’s liquor contract, is expected to take action on the bill today.

    “The Maine Legislature now has the opportunity pass this comprehensive bill and change the lives of so many people for the better. Please do it now,” urged Sonja Sawyer, a breast cancer survivor from Bangor.

    Patty Kidder of Sanford also spoke about the need for health care coverage under the Democratic proposal. She and her husband lost health care coverage when her husband lost his job at Spencer Press during the recession. Because of health issues, he needs seven prescription medicines, all of which need doctor review.

    “We are overdue to see our family doctor because we can’t afford to pay for the office visit. It is scary to think about what could happen if my husband can’t refill his medication,” said Kidder.

    On Wednesday, lawmakers on the Health and Human Services Committee, in a bipartisan vote of 10-4, strongly urged that language on accepting federal health care dollars be part of a bill to repay Maine’s hospitals. In March, Democrats announced a comprehensive plan that called for addressing both health care issues at the same time.

    “Not only do we pay back our hospitals, but we also ensure that thousands of Mainers can see a doctor when they are sick,” said Speaker of the House Mark Eves of North Berwick. “By doing so, we reduce the charity care costs and bad debt that are cost drivers for our hospitals. To do one without the other, would leave the job half done.”

    According to the Maine Hospital Association, both bad debt and charity care, was about $450 million last year, up $32 million from the year before.

    Under the comprehensive Democratic plan, nearly 70,000 more Maine people would have access to health care, hospitals would be paid back $485 million in debt and they would also receive an additional $163 million a year in federal dollars for treating newly insured Maine residents.

    “Our comprehensive proposal is morally and economically the right thing to do. It addresses the costs of health care for our hospitals and our people,” said Senate President Justin Alfond. “People’s lives are on the line. Now is the time to act.”

    The federal government has agreed to cover 100 percent of the cost for covering thousands of Mainers for the next three years, and gradually lower its payment to no less than 90 percent of the cost by 2020.
    Maine is projected to save $690 million in the next 10 years if it accepts the federal dollars, according to the nonpartisan Kaiser Foundation and the conservative Heritage Foundation. The state is one of 10 that will see a drop in Medicaid spending from accepting the federal dollars.

    ###

      MYTHS AND FACTS

    MYTH: Democrats surprised Republicans by linking Medicaid expansion to the hospital payment.
    FACT: This is the latest in a long list of excuses for Republicans to delay and deny health care to thousands of Maine people. Democrats announced this plan in March during a press conference and later told Republicans and the Governor they would put both in one bill in a meeting in April. This plan has been widely reported and editorialized on in major daily newspapers.

    MYTH: Gov. LePage says Medicaid Expansion is welfare.
    FACT: Medicaid is health care for low-income individuals, many of whom are working but cannot afford health insurance coverage or don’t have the option from their employer. Seventy percent of Medicaid enrollees are either children, seniors or individuals with disabilities. MaineCare payments go to hospitals and health care providers to provide services not directly to eligible individuals.

    MYTH: Gov. LePage says Medicaid Expansion could cost Maine $100 million.
    FACT: Estimates from the non-partisan Kaiser Foundation and the conservative Heritage Foundation show that Maine will save $690 million to cover nearly 70,000 Maine people over the course of a decade. Maine is one of 10 states that will see Medicaid expenditures go down over 10 years.

    MYTH: Governor LePage needs time to negotiate a better deal with the federal government.
    FACT: The federal government has offered Maine a bargain. It has already pledged to pay 100 percent of the costs of health care for three years. Over time, that share will decline until it reaches 90 percent in 2020 and future years. That compares to the average 57 percent of the costs the federal government pays states on average for people currently on Medicaid. Maine can opt-out at any time. In a recent letter to Governor LePage, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius offered to provide the LePage administration “flexibility under the law” to implement the program in Maine. The fact is, since 1965, the federal government has 100 percent compliance in meeting its commitment to states with respect to the match rate and other medicaid obligations. The record of the federal government is far superior to that of the states, including Maine, in terms of meeting its promises to both states and providers.

    MYTH: Gov. LePage says Democrats won’t pay Maine’s hospital debt.
    FACT: Democrats and Governor LePage agree that we must make the final payment on our state’s debt to hospitals. As we make a final payment on Maine’s hospital debt, Democrats believe we must also address the underlying problem that helped cause the debt. To do one without the other would leave the job half done. Under the comprehensive plan proposed by Democrats, hospitals would be paid $485 million in back debt rightfully owed to them and on top of that they would also receive an additional $163 million a year in federal dollars for treating newly insured Maine residents. This brings in more insured patients, increases patient volume and eliminates a major cost driver in the health care system.

    MYTH: Maine’s hospital debt has nothing to do with Medicaid expansion.
    FACT: Maine’s hospital debt is a symptom of our high health care costs. We can’t just treat the symptom; we have to treat the problem. We can lower those costs by accepting federal health care dollars to cover nearly 70,000 Maine people. By doing so we would significantly reduce hospital charity care cost for the uninsured. According to the Maine Hospital Association, both bad debt and charity care, was about $450 million last year, up $32 million from the year before. Hospitals pass these charity care costs to consumers, including the state and individuals and businesses with private insurance.

    MYTH: Medicaid expansion would be a government handout for lazy able-bodied adults
    FACT: The federal health care dollars would be used toward health care for those who earned up to 138 percent of the poverty rate. That includes individuals who are working in low-paying jobs with no health insurance, earning $15,856 or a family of three earning up to $26,951. According to the Anthem Blue Cross insurance chart on the state’s website, an individual policy with a $2,000 deductible for a 55-year-old would be about $6,500 per year. That policy features a $50 co-pay for a regular office visit.

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