LePage asks Mainers to demand payment to hospitals

LEWISTON — Gov. Paul LePage called on Mainers on Saturday to rise up and demand payment of about $500 million to the state's hospitals.

"It's a sin," LePage said. "It's criminal. It's absolutely criminal, the behavior of (Senate President) Justin Alfond and (House Speaker) Mark Eves. And I'm going to tell you this: It's not the Democrats versus the Republicans. It is the people of Maine against Justin Alfond and Mark Eves because many, many Republicans and many, many Democrats are willing to get this done."

Alfond is a Portland Democrat and Eves is a Democrat from Berwick.

On Thursday, the Democrats in the Legislature offered LePage a plan to pay the hospitals if it were linked to a plan that would expand Medicaid coverage. The expansion would be 90 percent funded by federal money.

The state's $484 million debt is owed for services Maine hospitals have provided under the state's MaineCare program, which is funded by state and federal Medicaid money.

On Saturday, LePage took particular aim at Alfond and the Democratic plan.

"He hasn't had anything comprehensive in his life," LePage said. "He has been nothing more than an obstructionist since the day he took over leadership."

Alfond disagreed.

"Obstructionist? The governor has a short memory," the senator said. "Weeks ago he threatened to veto every bill and he single-handedly has prevented 3,000 jobs and over $300 million dollars of investments in our state by not issuing voter-approved bonds.

"The governor, since talking office, has insulted Maine state workers, teachers and the Legislature," Alfond said in a prepared response. "Weekly, he blasts our great state. He has been the most divisive leader our state has ever seen."

Alfond promised that the hospitals would be paid during this legislative session.

"His repayment plan writes a blank check to the hospitals and does absolutely nothing to address the escalating costs of health care," Alfond said.

In the Democrat's plan, Maine would save $690 million, Eves said in a prepared statement.

“By accepting federal health care dollars and repaying our hospitals in one fell swoop we will cover more Mainers, save the state and hospitals money, and boost our economy,” Eves said.

The governor's plan would pay hospitals the $186 million the state owes for its share of the debt with a revenue bond. LePage is proposing to use revenue from the state's wholesale liquor business to finance the bonds. The state's share once paid would be matched with $298 million in federal funds.

MaineCare is a state and federally funded health care program for low-income families and individuals, and is paid for, in part, with federal Medicaid funds.

"I'm looking at Medicaid," LePage said. "It's a very complex issue. It's multiple years. It's into the future. They're unwilling to look at the fraud involved. It really concerns me that they want a blank check."

He repeated his promise to withhold his signature on most legislation until the hospitals bills are paid.

"If there are things that are going to help Maine people and are not held hostage, yes, I will sign it," the governor said. " But quite frankly, I haven't seen anything come out of the Legislature this year that's worth signing."

He added, "I'm going to gear up for the election in 2014 because there's not much I can do anymore. Without them passing it, I can't do anything."

dhartill@sunjournal.com

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FRANK EARLEY's picture

Here's a new twist to this dilemma....

Lets just say that ten years ago, or so, I was on MaineCare", I went to the hospital for whatever reason, and I signed the little paper securing payment. Now the ball is in "MaineCare's" hands. Now lets go back to the beginning of "MaineCare", I'm assuming that some effort was put into actually affording this huge program. I further assume that funding was made available for the anticipated healthcare bills soon to arrive. Now the funding set aside by those in charge, came from someplace, whether it be tax revenue, Stock earnings or what ever. I would think the people of Maine were being used probably in a major way to finance this program. I'm sure that a good chunk of change was going toward "MaineCare".
The bill was never paid. Who's really responsible?
Lets pretend I went to one of the big box stores and bought "GE" clock, at the check out I pay my $25.00, get my receipt and return home. A year or so later, I receive a call from GE, stating that I owe them $25.00, because the big box decided not to pay. I fax them a copy of my receipt, and explain to them, sorry I already paid.
Now lets assume the big box assumes responsibility for the charge and decides to come after me because they no longer have the $25.00 I paid them in the first place. Who would pay that? Not me, isn't that just what the State Government is doing to us now? We paid once for this in the first place, now they want us to pay again. Maybe I'm not understanding something, It wouldn't be the first time....................

Kim Waite's picture

What I love about MaineCare (and Medicare) is

....both keep their own costs down to the taxpayer by not paying the full price for services at the hospitals/doctors offices/etc. I would like to know if the hospitals/doctors/specialists etc are saying that the money that is owed to them (besides by those who don't have insurance and do have an outstanding balance with the hospital) is the DIFFERENCE in what was paid (accord and satisfaction) by MaineCare/Medicare and what the hospital would have liked to have been paid!

Who knows for a fact that the hospitals won't use their new found taxpayer money to increase the size of their hospital or buy new equipment etc (or give huge bonuses to those at the top)? What if they don't pay off their bills with the money? Then what?

Kim Waite's picture

Can the hospitals

prove to Mainers that that much money is owed to them and that they haven't written off those debts over the years? Doubt it! The guv'nah is a fool, the hospitals are greedy, and both are a stain on our state!

The Governor's Character

“At the end of the day, all we have is our character,” LePage said. “And a good character is you live by what you say you are going to do and you pay your bills. And I sure believe the state of Maine should not have the reputation of not paying its bills.”[1]

To some the governor is demonstrating leadership, by defining the core values of Mainers; “live by what you say you are going to do and you pay your bills”. This will no doubt create some chest thumping.

To others the governor is simply manipulative; embarrass the citizens into thinking payment of an economic debt is a matter of morality.

Economic debt is the obligation to pay a certain sum of money; a simple, cold, and impersonal transaction and transferable. Human effects are not calculated, only principle and interest.

Morality refers to a code of conduct that applies to all who can understand it and can govern their behavior by it; morality should never be overridden, that is, no one should ever violate a moral prohibition or requirement for non-moral considerations.

How is our sense of morality and justice reduced to the language of a business deal; a moral obligation becomes an economic debt? Money. It is money’s capacity to turn morality into a matter of impersonal arithmetic, justifying what would otherwise seem outrageous or obscene.

Consider in 2010 voters approved the Oxford Casino under the promise that 46 percent of the profits would help fund public education in Maine. However, unless something has changed, the governor intends to use those funds ($14 million) to address a gap in the state’s budget.

In doing so the governor broke a promise between the state and its citizens on where the $14 million was to be spent. A debt obligation involving a budget gap took precedence over a moral obligation in the education of children; “good character is you live by what you say you are going to do.”

With respect to the hospital debt, an article in the Bangor Daily News provided a historical analysis of how the debt came to its current amount of $484 million[2]. However, the data was provided by DHHS whose inconsistent financial reporting over the last two years raises the following questions.

If the state struggles with understanding the area of their own financial house related to healthcare, why should I believe the state is correct in stating what is owed to the hospitals?

Has there been an audit of the $484 million hospital bill by a third-party?

When the bill comes at a restaurant, or to our home, it is normal to validate its accuracy before we pay it. We’ve all experienced inaccurate bills and had them corrected. What if an audit discovered $14 million (3% of $484 million) in erroneous hospital billing?

Further, has Maine been billed fairly by the hospitals? An extensive essay in Time[3] brings to light the significant markup in healthcare. Who benefits from these markups, the hospital, hospital executives, and/or middle-men? Paying 95 cents on the dollar would result in a payment of $460 million, a reduction of $24 million. That’s $14 million to cover the debt gap mentioned previously and $10 million for education, using the governor’s sense of priorities.

The governor’s manipulative approach to embarrass the citizens of Maine is an insult; pushing his agenda through a grass roots effort while holding bonds and bills hostage is condescending to the intellect of all Mainers. That is the “character” of Maine’s governor.

[1] http://bangordailynews.com/2013/03/08/politics/state-house/lepage-paying...

http://www.sunjournal.com/news/lewiston-auburn-maine/2013/03/08/lepage-p...

[2] http://bangordailynews.com/2013/03/08/news/state/maines-debt-to-hospital...

[3] http://healthland.time.com/2013/02/20/bitter-pill-why-medical-bills-are-...

DONALD FERLAND's picture

He asks Mainers to DEMAND

He asks Mainers to DEMAND payment to the hospitals. Why? No one in Augusta listens to the people of Maine, not even the governor. We voted on bonds he holds hostage. He has not learned a thing over the last 2 + years. Sometimes you have to do..oh what's the word....oh yeah...COMPROMISE. He is so rigid it isn't funny. He acts more like a two year old going through the terrible two's ...mine, mine, mine...my way or no way.....and as much as we are all counting on him being voted out of office we need to step back and not count our chickens before they hatch.....we need to work hard to make sure he is not re-elected especially if it becomes a 3-way race. Remember he doesn't have to have 50% +1 vote to win he just have to have the most votes.

JERRY ARIPEZ's picture

What the People of Maine Demand

For the wanta-be guv to resign and move on and let a real leader take the helm and he can get back to his bottle of courage and badgering his own.

FRANK EARLEY's picture

I knew from the start..........

I knew from the start, the very first time LePage baulked at the Federal funding for Medicaid, Had he accepted that option, we wouldn't be having this argument now. Nothing says "screw up", better than a Governor having to resort to begging the people to help him get his bill across. I mean by his own admission, we know better than he does. Why then do we need him? This guy's lack of decorum is becoming more and more evident as each day goes by, we can only count the days till we can be discussing things useful to the people, instead of how much better this State would be without LePages antic's.............

JERRY ARIPEZ's picture

Eating Crow with a newer recipe

LePage will be just like the rest of the Guv's that balked at the Extension of Medicaid for the ACA, as the other nitwits like Brewer, Scott, and other redstate, redneck Guvs did. They too realized that those moneys would be used for paying off previous bills owed but also how it manages to assist others in need, beside their need of being arrogant and defiant.

The problem with this hayseed, waste of skin Guv is he is a monkey see, monkey do, and just a follower of the other redstate, teabagger nutjobs and will never be a leader.

Gerry Thompson's picture

Pay your bills!

We owe this and it must be paid! Healthcare is important to everyone! It also means jobs to those in the healthcare field, better services. The hospitals charge everyone else more to make up the difference.

Jason Theriault's picture

By law

By Law, the state is supposed to pay for 55% of cost of schools in Maine, but has NEVER done that. Where is the outrage there?

Oh, that's right, Republicans have NEVER given a s**t about schools except to privatize them. So sorry if democrats might ballance out all of our debts, and not just give hospitals the priority

CLAIRE GAMACHE's picture

The real problem

So what is the problem with paying the hospitals and taking care of the sickest people in our state too. The problem is the governor wants his plan and only his plan. His tunnel vision sees the benefits of paying the hospitals but apparently the 60% of the people of Maine who don't agree with him don't exist or need to be schooled in his wisdom.

AL PELLETIER's picture

State government at it's best.

Harmony and cooperation reigns supreme in Augusta. THAT WAS THE JOKE OF THE DAY.

Jason Theriault's picture

Tough LePage

Guess what Governor? By "telling it like it is" and telling us other crap like the "little beards" comments, you have burned all your bridges with the moderates here in Maine. The only people who are going to listen to you now is the 35% who will believe that Democrats are the bad guys regardless of any evidence.

CLAIRE GAMACHE's picture

The people of Maine

Last I heard the governor had about 35% support among the people of Maine. The rest of them want the hospitals paid but not ahead of the seniors, the kids and and the sick folks. It's called need ahead of greed. I hope the legislators stick to their guns. It sounds as if they have the needs of most of the people in mind and should just let the Little Napoleon spout his vitriol.

 's picture

Spoken like a true liberal,

Me, me, me, and screw the other guy. Why pay the hospitals when you can hand out more trinkets, create more dept. I really think we should raise everybody's taxes, and I mean everybody, including the lowest paid worker. Take away the low income credits for people who don't pay taxes (state or federal) and get a return for money they didn't pay in. We could pay for any type of trinket, couldn't we?

CLAIRE GAMACHE's picture

A true conservative

You, You , you . You should do all the paying and the corporations and CEO's should do all the taking. Of course it's fair that a minimum wage worker, or college student or stay at home mom or disabled veteran or sick senior should pay the same taxes as a guy who owns six homes and 12 cars. And trinkets?? How dare people ask for food, education, safety, medecine, fairness and representation when the people of Bangladesh are happy with nothing. The governor's plan calls for taking on debt to pay the hospitals period. The legislature's plans calls for paying the hospitals and providing for the sick and the needy. The one good news is that the governor has proclaimed that he's doing nothing until the next election. The problem is he never keeps his word.

 's picture

Very typical of your type Claire,

always envious of the other guy, when all you have to do is make the right decisions in life and you can be just like him. Life wasn't meant nor was it designed top be fair. If it were, we would all be living the good life. Your life is what you make of it. Most people in the twin cities and Maine in general are not interested in doing what it takes, but are very willing to complain about what the other guy has. Time and time again I see people walk away from perfect opportunities only cause the effort is to great at the time. Minimum wage is exactly what it's supposed to be, minimum, to give the experience and hopefully the incentive to move up in life and make that living wage that you so desire. I have no problem giving someone a helping hand, I do have a problem paying for their lifestyle, because of shortsightedness and greed of some politicians like the current crowed of liberals and some Republicans, while others are loosing their jobs. Folks like yourself, still haven't figured it out, that each and every time you vote for a bond, you are creating more and more debt for the state. But who cares, we can just tax the rich guy a little more and a little more, and god forbid that rich guy complain, cause he's just a greedy SOB in your eyes. Somebody has to pay that bill, so why not the people who helped create it. Oh we can't do that, my god, that's asking someone to do something for their own cause. You being in education most of your life sure hasn't thought you very much.

JERRY ARIPEZ's picture

You speak of Education

I do have a problem paying for their lifestyle, because of shortsightedness and greed of some politicians like the current crowed of liberals and some Republicans,?????

Really, looking back in history, on all of the proposals of minimum wage increases, it has always been from the Democrats as to the reversal of the Republicans have always voted NO or brought up the proposal to do so. But in the eyes of the greedy Repubs, that raising the wages would be detrimental to the economy....again another Economy 101 failure on the Republican way of thinking....

If a higher minimum wage increases the wage rates of unskilled workers above the level that would be established by market forces, the quantity of unskilled workers employed will fall. Meaning what, that more people would be able to create more income and spend it to help the economy grow.

Are you speaking of the greed of the Repubs for the employers or the greed of the working class asking for more to meet the differences in the cost of living, in the huge wage gap and prices of living and paying for necessities like food and rent today?

CLAIRE GAMACHE's picture

Education

Well it has taught me to read the Pew Research that shows that the top7% enjoy an income that has risen 28% since 2009 and enjoy the lowest tax rates in American history. The rest of us have lost 4% since then and are having more and more bills thrown onto regressive taxes like the property tax and have to live with wage freezes. The income inequality in this country is beginning to mirror third world countries. That's not envy it's arithmetic. Add to that, the 7% now also own our government and lobby for regulations to make income inequality even greater, calling it job creation and deficit elimination,, and yeah I call that greed and a severe lack of patriotism.

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