Proud LePage pays off hospital debt

Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

Governor Paul LePage presents Central Maine Medical Center CEO Peter Chalke a check to pay off the debt the state owes to the Lewiston hospital on Wednesday afternoon at CMMC.

Governor at CMMC to pay off hospital debt.
Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

Governor Paul LePage presents Central Maine Medical Center CEO Peter Chalke a check to pay off the debt the state owes to the Lewiston hospital on Wednesday afternoon at CMMC.

Governor at CMMC to pay off hospital debt.
Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

Gov. Paul LePage, right, laughs as Paul Nickerson of Lewiston, a member of the Maine People's Alliance, interrupts a news conference at Central Maine Medical Center in Lewiston on Wednesday afternoon. Nickerson wanted to make a point that the governor should accept federal money to pay for expanding Medicaid. 

LEWISTON — Saying it was a good day, Gov. Paul LePage symbolically paid $38.1 million in back debt to Central Maine Medical Center on Wednesday.

"As a governor, it's embarrassing to watch your hospitals lay people off because you are not paying your bills or to watch hospitals delay needed services and projects that should be done to provide better quality health care because we owe them the money," LePage told a crowd in the lobby of CMMC. "I am so proud. If I never accomplish anything else in life, we paid the hospitals."

LePage presented two large symbolic checks to CMMC CEO Peter Chalke, one for the $38.1 million owed to Central Maine Healthcare and a second one that included the money owed to CMHC's other hospitals — $1.9 million to Bridgton Hospital and $3.4 million to Rumford Hospital.

He presented a similarly symbolic $9.4 million check to Inland Hospital in Waterville earlier in the day.

Chalke said the real, cashable checks being held by State Controller Terry Brann were the ones he was interested in.

Adrienne Bennett, LePage's press secretary, said Brann had five checks that were too large to be distributed electronically or to be sent through the mail. Brann delivered two by hand Wednesday.

"He's actually holding them, in his hand right now, and he cannot let go of them unless it is to the authorized person at the hospital," Bennett said.

Brann said three other hospitals collected their checks in Augusta on Wednesday: Eastern Maine Medical Center picked up its $74.7 million check, Maine General Regional Medical Center took its $47.6 million check and Maine Medical Center picked up its $81.9 million check.

The rest, a total of $490 million, were delivered via electronic transfer to Maine hospitals Wednesday. It represented $183.5 million in state funds and a matching $306.7 in federal money.

Paying the hospital debt has been a focal point of LePage's administration and an issue he campaigned on in 2010, promising he would get the hospitals paid, if elected.

But LePage stopped short Wednesday of taking up other issues having to do with medical care, despite the best efforts of the Maine People's Alliance.

MPA member Paul Nickerson posed in front of the governor dressed as Uncle Sam with a symbolic $1 billion check, representing federal money that could be used to expand MaineCare. LePage has said he won't accept the money the federal government has offered Maine.

"Uncle Sam is offering him the federal money to fund 70,000 Mainers' health coverage," said Andrew Francis, communications associate for the MPA. "We think (LePage) should take that money and move beyond partisan politics."

Nickerson was moved off stage, and LePage declined to discuss the matter.

"Today is a good day," the governor said. "It's a day of celebration, of paying back debt that started a decade ago. So today, we'll celebrate. Tomorrow, we'll talk about expansion."

The governor said he was open to discussing it.

"I'm always willing to negotiate, to have people come in and put a logical, sensible plan on the table," LePage said. "I've been governor now approaching three years, and from the opposition, I've yet to see that."

State Rep. Peggy Rotundo, D-Lewiston, said the state has been working to pay the hospital debt for the past 10 years.

"But this is a symptom of something that is much larger, which is the affordability of health care," Rotundo said. "It's why we've been pushing so hard for the expansion of MaineCare."

A hospital employee thanked LePage for the money, then added, "Now don't let Anthem put us out of business."

"I'm working on that, too," LePage said.

Anthem Insurance plans to partner with MaineHealth, forcing its customers to use its hospitals. It locks out Central Maine Medical Center, Bridgton Hospital, Rumford Hospital and their affiliated specialists, except in cases of patients seeking emergency care. Also locked out are Mercy Hospital in Portland, York Hospital in southern Maine and Parkview Adventist Medical Center in Brunswick.

Lewiston Mayor Robert Macdonald said he and other Twin Cities officials worked hard to get the payments.

"I was up in Augusta for the legislative year, testifying at hearings on all this," Macdonald said. "This is really, really important. But now we have to deal with Anthem, so there's a lot still going on."

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 's picture

Hey Mark!

Dont get your panties in a bunch or the rose colored glasses steamed up! Its a JOKE get it?!!!

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

It might be a joke, but it is

It might be a joke, but it is also quite true. Good one.

 's picture

Prime Example!

I was talking to a friend's little girl, and she said she wanted to be
President some day.

Both of her parents, liberal Democrats, were standing there, so I asked

'If you were to be the President, what's the first thing you would do?'
She replied, 'I'd give food and houses to all the homeless people.'

'Wow - what a worthy goal.' I told her, 'You don't have to wait until
you're President to do that.

You can come over to my house and mow the grass, pull weeds, and sweep my
yard, and I'll pay you $50. Then I'll take you over to the grocery store
where the homeless guy hangs out, and you can give him the $50 to use
toward food or a new house.'

She thought that over for a few seconds, 'cause she's only 6.

And while her Mom glared at me, the little girl looked me straight in the
eye and asked, 'Why doesn't the homeless guy come over and do the work,
and you can just pay him the $50?'

And I said, 'Welcome to the Republican Party.'

 's picture


Typical republican - steal someone else's work and pass it off as your own:

Amen! Brother Amen!!

Amen! Brother Amen!!

 's picture

When is this grandstander...

...going to pay the schools what they are owned and LOWER our property taxes. It good you paid the hospitals. That does NOTHING about taxes.

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

Probably about the same time

Probably about the same time oBAMa shuts down Gitmo and straightens out the U.S. economy.

FRANK EARLEY's picture

Yes the Governor has paid............

Yes the Governor has paid off the debt to the hospitals. Now lets embark on a little hypothetical poll taking. We have every citizen of Maine, old enough to vote, all lined up shoulder to shoulder. We're going to ask them one simple question. Every individual is relegated to honesty whether they like it or not, so they can't answer politically. For some this may be a first.
Now we're going to ask one question, and only accept one answer. Here is the question.
How much has paying off the debt owed to the hospitals benefited you, the citizens of Maine?
If everyone is honest, and we know they will be, the answer will be simple. It's simple because there is no benefit to anyone but the hospitals. There is no tangible benefit to the people of Maine.
While all this pomp and circumstance was going on, all the smiles, all the handshaking, all the joking around. I wonder how many people were sitting in the emergency room waiting area. Knowing full well they will never be able to pay this new bill they are about to acquire. How many mothers are at home with a three year old, who hasn't been able to hold anything down for three days, with a temperature of 103, and they are just hoping things improve. Hoping things improve so they won't have to make that dreaded trip to the ER, and just increase the already astronomically high debt they already owe the hospital. A debt they know will never be paid.
I've had this nagging question for awhile now. How is debt incurred from patients unable to pay their bills, any different than the debt owed by the State?
If John Doe were to fail to pay a ten thousand dollar bill to the hospital, it wouldn't be any more or less than the ten thousand not paid by the State. Yet by paying off the States debt, the Governor leaves open a whole slew of dept incurred by uninsured patients on a daily basis. How is allowing thousands of citizens unable to pay their hospital bills, to go without, any different from the State not paying it's bills.
I feel the Governor is at least as responsible for those who can't pay the hospitals, as he is for the State paying the hospitals. By paying off the debt owed by the State, he only scratched the surface of the problem. In denying those thousands of people affordable health care, he has just greased the wheels of the revolving door to the emergency room. The hospitals are still going to have huge unpaid accounts, they just won't have the name "State of Maine" at the top. I don't think LePage has settled anything yet......................

 's picture

Paying off that debt means

Paying off that debt means the staffing will be better at those hospitals for all of us. Medical professionals have been laid off due to hardships. Let's hope they're hired back on. The Affordable Care Act should solve all the other problems, yes? Governor LePage has done well.

 's picture

How much has paying off the debt owed to the hospitals benefited

Lets ask the ones that ran up the dept if they benefited from the care they were given. You can not actually use a dumb comment like "How much has paying off the debt owed to the hospitals benefited you, the citizens of Maine?" and also want to allow 70000 more on Maine Care. Then try to make it sound bad that a bill has been paid. Hypocritcal to say the least.

FRANK EARLEY's picture

Just a clarification.........

The people who benefited from incurring the debt, were not the same individuals that caused the debt to occur. Medicaid is not the root cause of the debt. Someone decided not to pay the bills.
The debt has grown over a long period of time, you don't rack up hundreds of millions of dollars over night. Those millions could have been repaid in a fiscally more responsible manner. Where is it written that the debt be repaid in one lump sum. That money could have been more efficiently used for both State functions, as well as payments on the debt owed.
When a person gets so caught up in their own admiration of themselves, they tend to lose touch with common sense. LePage paid this lump sum to glorify his own dream. In doing so he threw away the opportunity to use the money for more pressing matters benefiting State. I just hope everyone enjoyed, what will probably become one of the most expensive photo ops, in this upcoming Governors race. This was just political grandstanding at the citizens expense...............

Bob White's picture

When did the then Governor

When did the then Governor tell the hospitals that we are going to make you wait till we are good and ready to pay you.

Bob White's picture

Frank Here is a question for you

What if you didn't get your check Frank what would that do to your house hold? See Frank some people are kinda like the hospital they do work to get paid so they can pay there bills. Although a lot of people love there jobs but the real reason they work is to pay bills and have things. I know its hard to understand when you sit on your couch and have your hand out. Believe it or not as much as hospitals love what there doing they need money to operate and pay the bills.

FRANK EARLEY's picture

I just can't................

Bob, I just can't keep answering your idiotic arguments. You obviously don't have a clue as to what I'm trying to say. You are so hell bent on someone getting anything for nothing, you can't see reality. Your problem is you see things from one or maybe two possible perspectives. Your being able to work argument is so lame, it's comical. There are so many other reasons your not even aware of that would prevent a person from being able to work. Your contention that I would rather stay home and wait for a check is at the very least, insulting to me. You might start wondering how you would feel in the same circumstances. It could happen to you tomorrow, trust me.
Please quit referring to anyone disabled or otherwise as lazy, sitting home with their hand out. I would be willing to bet, that I have already earned more money than you will in your lifetime. I know I have more college degrees than you will acquire. I've paid my dues. I didn't expect to get sick, and I won't apologize for being unable to work.
So, if you'll excuse me, I'm going back to my couch and start counting the days till the first of the month, I'm just going to shuffle over to my hotplate and heat up some left over Ramon Noodles, for supper..............

Bob White's picture

Frank you do two things

Frank you do two things good,
one is making excuses for why you can't work and start insulting people when you don't agree with someone. You may have plenty college credits but how's that working for you? As far as money I wouldn't be so sure of yourself. Frank if you would read my comments you might learn something there are people that are to sick to work there are people that will work no matter what and then there people like you that make excuses for why they can't work. I'm if the truth hurts.

 's picture

smoke and mirrors

Has the State debt gone down as a result? No. He used the Visa to pay off the Amex.

Jane Ryerson's picture

LePage pays off hospital debt.

Finally a governor who does what he says what he would do. I voted for our governor and not ashamed to say it. He may be blunt, but people need to hear the cold hard truth and too many people don't want to hear it. For the Gamache comment, Mr. Stone is 100% correct. It was previous democratic administrations that caused this mess with the hospitals and who didn't have the guts enough to do the right thing and pay them off. This is no different then what is happening in Washington D.C... The Democrats want all these feel good programs but don't want to find a way to fund them. The U.S. government has taken in more money in history this year and yet they are still overspending. How is that? Anyway, I applaud our governor and the governor should not be taking a handout from the Federal government just to expand MaineCare. Where does the MPA think this money comes from? It comes from you and I and is not free money and I for one don't want my healthcare ruled by Washington D.C. I don't want my healthcare interfered with by having a bureaucrat between myself and my doctor and that is exactly what you are looking at. If you don't believe it go read the UNaffordable Healthcare act.

MARK GRAVEL's picture

"The Democrats want all these

"The Democrats want all these feel good programs but don't want to find a way to fund them."

Shhh, don't give Democrats in Washington any ideas about paying for programs. They'll end up taxing us to death to pay for all their programs. I don't want their programs in the first place.

 's picture

Say What You Like However.................

At least this Gov PAID this debt thats more than previous Gov's did


Paid off??

The hospitals may have the money but we have not paid off anything. We still owe for the bonds and will for many years to come. We just owe different people.

Bob White's picture

Well Claire

The big difference is the people holding the bond are expecting for us to pay them pack over time unlike the hospitals. The bond people realize its a loan and guess what they will be paid interest unlike the hospitals.

 's picture

Convoluted logic

Here is the difference, Madame Gamache....

Our great Governor devised a plan to pay our health care providers for services rendered under "programs.". Those debts had been accumulated over the years by the prior governor and his Democrat allies. Those allies fought our great Governor's plan to the bitter end, trying to get their hands on the liquor contract revenues to start yet new programs, and leave the hospitals unpaid.

The great Lepage won a huge victory over outright fiscal malpractice. Spin it anyway you want, but those are the facts.

Gerry Thompson's picture


who drink will be the ones to pay it off and not only will they be getting a better deal so will the State of Maine. LePage negotiated a far better deal than previous governors

Thomas Hamilton's picture

Proud LePage pays off hospital debt

"Proud LePage pays off hospital debt". What? That was the taxpayer's money not the gov's!

RONALD RIML's picture

So Terry Brann's got the checks??

Damn, he's my next door neighbor. He should take me out for a couple of cold ones.....


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