Rep. Jeffrey Timberlake: Democrats must abandon Medicaid expansion

President Barack Obama’s brazen and bold-faced misstatements about the Affordable Health Care Act, also known as Obamacare, may turn out to be a silver lining for Maine taxpayers.

When the Legislature reconvenes in January, the majority party will once again push legislation to expand Medicaid, which is administered through the state’s MaineCare program. Gov. Paul LePage vetoed the expansion during the Legislature’s first session, citing costs and budgeting priorities. Democratic leaders are relentless though and, in violation of legislative rules, have submitted emergency legislation to expand the program.

The expansion would add about 70,000 people to the MaineCare rolls, the majority of who are able-bodied, childless adults. That would bring MaineCare enrollment to about 375,000, nearly one third of the state’s population. Taxpayers, both state and federal, would cover every cent of expanded health care costs for a program that has no premiums, no office co-pays and no deductibles.

Under Obamacare, the federal government would cover 100 percent of the expansion for newly eligible childless adults for the first three years — the so-called “promotion price.” Thereafter, the federal government proposes to gradually decrease the rate of coverage to 90 percent. Covering the remaining 10 percent of costs would add an estimated $150 million to every state budget beginning in 2020.

Keep in mind that MaineCare currently accounts for 25 percent of state spending, up from 13 percent in 1998. The enormous and growing cost — about $750 million — is cannibalizing the state budget and crippling our ability to fund other critical responsibilities, such as education, roads and public safety.

Imagine the impact on state finances if we add those 70,000 recipients and the federal government – already $17 trillion in debt – decides it can’t make good on its promised payments. At that point, the state would legally be prohibited from reversing the expansion and would be faced with an insurmountable deficit.

This brings me back to President Obama and Obamacare.

Why shouldn’t taxpayers insist that some of these people buy the inexpensive new private market policies that have federally subsidized rates? The main purpose behind Obamacare is to provide affordable health care to those who are not currently covered. Could it be because even those in our state government who support this plan are aware of its deficiencies?

We were assured by the president and his administration at least 36 times, in no uncertain terms, that if you like your health insurance plan you can keep it – period. He promised that if you like your doctor you can keep your doctor – period.

Now, with the country’s health care system descending into chaos, we understand these none of his assertions were true. So did congressional Democrats.

The big slip-up came Nov. 17, on ABC’s “This Week” when Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-New York, acknowledged under questioning from Martha Radditz that Democrats were never misled by Obama when he stated that Americans could keep their existing insurance plans. “We all knew,” she said.

With those three words, Gillibrand removed any doubt that the President and Democrats were aware that the program would require mass cancellation of insurance policies. They did not tell the rest of the American people in order to shore up support for the president’s "signature achievement."

But wait until the fall 2014 when the employer-sponsored plans get into the game. According to an analysis by McClatchy Newspapers, and backed up by the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office, some 34 to 53 million employer-provided policies will be eliminated. An analysis by Forbes magazine calculates that, all told, up to 93 million Americans will see their policies terminated.

In my mind, the credibility of Obama and his administration has been gravely damaged beyond repair. I believe the majority of Americans realize that they were sold a rotten bill of goods and that congressional Democrats were complicit.

If President Obama and his administration would mislead us about something so intimate and vital to all Americans, their health care, why should Mainers trust the “guarantee” we have been given that if we once again expand our MaineCare system we will receive 90 percent reimbursement from the federal government?

As we have seen, to minimize political damage to him and congressional Democrats, the president continues to explain his Obamacare law however he wants, operating as though we have somehow become a monarchy and he is the ruler.

And if you still choose to believe in that guarantee, please be aware of the fine print. Any future Congress could vote to lower the reimbursement rate, citing the federal government’s inability to pay due to accumulating debt, leaving Maine holding the bag.

Given these looming uncertainties, it makes little sense to expand a budget busting program. We should thank President Obama for his many misleading statements; they may help to save Maine taxpayers from a burden we simply cannot afford.

Rep. Jeff Timberlake, R-Turner, serves on the Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry Committee and Joint Select Committee on Maine's Workforce and Economic Future.

Editor's note: This column has been edited to reflect that some, but not all, of the 70,000 people referred to may be eligible for federally subsidized private market insurance policies.

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Comments

FRANK EARLEY's picture

Mr Timberlake is .........................

Mr. Timberlake is evidently privy to a lot more information than the rest of us. Where did he get his numbers on who will be eligible for expanded Medicaid, or MaineCare? I never take the words of "Political Puppets" seriously. Mr. Timberlake fails to understand that thousands of working poor families will benefit from the expansion. With the economy we have now, there are a lot of abled bodied adults not working. Do we ignore their needs, just for being single? Even if they were able to snag one of the few low paying jobs we hear about out there, they still wouldn't be able to afford insurance on their own.
Mr. Timberlake needs to set his priorities on helping the people of Maine, and quit listening to our delusional Governor..............

Claudette Therriault's picture

Timberlake obviously does not have a clue.

He asked the question: "Why shouldn't taxpayers insist that these 70,000 people buy the inexpensive new private market policies that have federally subsidized rates?"

Because there are NO subsidies for Maine's working poor in any of the states that turned down expanded Medicaid! The Affordable Health Care Act was set up with expanded Medicaid. But, dumbass legislators like Timberlake and our even dumber governor decided otherwise.

MARK GRAVEL's picture

Perhaps it is the non-paying

Perhaps it is the non-paying taxpayr who wants the free stuff. The tax paying taxpayer does not want more tax liability. We had enough.

Claudette Therriault's picture

Working Poor is what I said

Yup, they are tax payers...

DONALD FERLAND's picture

Maybe Mr. Timberlake's family

Maybe Mr. Timberlake's family should stop getting harvest help from outside this country and start hiring Americans to do the work and provide them the benefits. I have a problem with employers going outside this country for help when we have so many unemployed people right here.

MARK GRAVEL's picture

Are you also apposed to

Are you also apposed to immigration reform for the same reason with the slight exception that Washington DC will be importing the low-cost, low-skilled labor.

 's picture

It's not that easy.

I never worked for rep Timberlake's orchard but in the 80s and early 90s I worked for other orchards. Back then there were very few local workers who would do the harvesting and stick it out until the end of the season. There also are not many American migrant farm workers who follow the crops. One orchard where I worked for several harvests would maintain a crew of 20 pickers. They brought in 10 Jamaicans and hired 10 locals at the beginning of the season. I never saw more than 2 local workers last through the season. Housing migrant workers is a rather large expense for a farmer. Every farmer I know would prefer to hire local labor to avoid that expense but even during times of high unemployment there are not enough locals who will do the work. The pay scale was not what kept locals from sticking it out. They didn't like having to keep a quick pace to meet quotas and they thought the standards were too high for picking only the ripe fruit without bruising it. In simpler terms they were wimps.

MARK GRAVEL's picture

"Back then there were very

"Back then there were very few local workers who would do the harvesting and stick it out until the end of the season. "

Perhaps the state should cut welfare, so these people are encouraged to work or otherwise go hungry.

Better yet, the State should mandate labor for those able body on assistance with 100% of the wages going to fund the welfare program.

MARK GRAVEL's picture

It just keeps getting better

It just keeps getting better with this administration. Now we are hearing from inner administration associates that ACA was known and designed to be an income redistribution scheme. Obama knew it - period.

So it looks like you middle class got taxed after all, just another broken promise from the Obumma administration.

At the end of all this, we can say Obama has kept one promise - to fundamentally change (or should we say skew-up) America.

Jonathan McKane's picture

Great column

Thank you Rep Timberlake for using facts and rational thought to counter the emotion and hyperbole of the radical left. Maine has the second highest percentage of its citizens in the country on medical welfare. This proposed expansion, which we can in no way afford even if Obama WASN'T lying, would put us in the number one position again by far.

I would ask the left-wingers on this page to answer this - what programs and departments are you willing to cut to pay for this expansion? What roads are you ready to close? What schools? Unless you can answer those questions you can in no way propose to expand welfare in this state.

FRANK EARLEY's picture

Mr. Mckane, answer this for me please.

Are you familiar with the mechanics of the ACA? I can tell by your concerns your missing something. How can you justify the many millions of taxpayer dollars not coming to this State? Why should my hard earned tax money go to all the other states who decided to expand Medicaid. That's right, I don't care about all your belly aching over what to cut. It's what's already been cut that infuriates me. You keep repeating the same old lame excuses, Maine having so many on welfare, Maine, has to many food stamps. You need to open your eyes as to who is actually on the so called welfare rolls. The elderly, the disabled, untold numbers of single mothers with children, working families with children, and yes even adults, unable to find work, are collecting some sort of assistance. Do we just ignore all these folks because you feel that you are paying to much in taxes.
Think about this, you are complaining about taxes being so high. Just for the sake of conversation, lets say that for some unforeseen reason, all our taxes from sales tax to income tax was suddenly tripled. Now all of a sudden, you are paying three quarters or more of your paycheck, or your taxes on investments, to the Government. Now what are you going to do? You can't even pay the rent. After missing a couple of insurance payments, you can't legally drive your car anymore, which is fine because you can't afford the gas. It's winter so you at least have electricity until spring, but the land lord will be screaming long before spring gets here. Your grocery supply is dwindalling, and you have no way to replenish them. What are you going to do. You suddenly find yourself hip deep in something that doesn't smell very nice. How did this happen?Why did this happen? you have no clue, it just hit you broadside out of nowhere.
Guess what? You never would have believed this, but you have just become one of those families that up until now you've pretty much thrown under the bus. You had no say in what happened, you had no warning this was coming, it just happened.
Now how do you feel about your fellow takers from society now? That's right, you need to apply for assistance or you lose what little you have left.
It's really quite humbling actually, you wouldn't believe how fast things start falling apart. If you really lucky, you have some contingency plan in place. That might give you a few months. Unless the cause of your demise is medical in nature. Then you lose whatever savings you started with, in weeks.
It's amazing how fast everything moves in slow motion. Yes that is what I said, fast in slow motion. I have no other way to describe watching everything you ever worked for slide down the drain.
In my case, a medical emergency, I went from earning pretty close to six figures to receiving a disability check in about four to six weeks. Tell me that wouldn't make your head spin.
What I'm trying to point out is how easy it is for anyone, doing anything regardless of your social status, can find themselves destitute in a mere month. Just try and figure out what you would do in that situation if all the safety nets are removed? Don't tell me it would never happen to you, trust me, I knew it would never happen to me, but hey, s*#t happens.................

Cris Johnson's picture

Rep. Timberlake, of course,

Rep. Timberlake, of course, has health insurance. He can readily afford it.

What he forgets, or perhaps left out of his bitter put-down, is that the folks he maligns as being "able-bodied, childless adults" are working and trying to get on with their lives but they earn too much money to qualify under medicaid as it exists in Maine and not enough to get help under the ACA (like everybody else who needs some help) because our Governor and folks like him in the legislature refused to expand Medicaid as the act envisioned all states would.

By a quirk of a Supreme Court decision which left that decision to each state they were pushed into an abyss into an abyss.

This is a shameful situation and a shameful argument.

MARK GRAVEL's picture

1. There is no free lunch, so

1. There is no free lunch, so someone must leap the abyss. That is, middle-income families are seeing their premiums increase anywhere form 40-300% to offset for this mess; they are being thrown into the abyss.

2. The Federal Government is has been running structural deficits for decades. Where in the hell will they get the money to fund Medicaid expansion is beyond me? Future generations are being thrown into the abyss.

The Obama administration is participating in misery redistribution. He is making all Americans suffer, so a handful can get free stuff.
When it comes to my family or someone like you being thrown into the abyss, well, all I can say is read Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs and pack you bag for a journey.

Claudette Therriault's picture

Go right ahead

As far as I'm concerned, all tea baggers can that Leap. Go on, listen to Fox News and their lies.

Cris Johnson's picture

What Maslow might say

It appears that you may be struggling to meet your own "deficiency needs" and are unable to turn your attention to anything larger than your own self-interest.

In fact, the stark choice you propose is unnecessary and an illusion you've created for yourself. Nobody has to be thrown into the abyss.

MARK GRAVEL's picture

I’m just following your

I’m just following your analogy.

That said, the theme of my message is that there is really no free lunch. If you consider this an illusion, perhaps you can enlighten readers with your version of the truth – real or imaginary.

Who is paying the bill? You have the stage; let’s hear it.

Cris Johnson's picture

No Free Lunch

Here in Maine (and throughout America) towns and villages have Community Suppers where all are welcome. Everyone pitches in as their means allow, by nobly is turned away - regardless of their circumstances.

From a certain point of view, the event is certainly not free for there is a cost to it.

Another way (that's considerably different) would be dividing up the cost of food and services and demanding an equal split at the door from each attendee.

Both versions are "fair," but only one version seems right to me.

It's true that I bring more than I or my family will possibly eat; but then, we've already satisfied our basic needs and have little interest in keeping score between ourselves and our neighbors.

MARK GRAVEL's picture

Good enough, but there is one

Good enough, but there is one big difference between your analogy and Mainecare expansion. With you analogy, I have a choice not to attend for any reason of my choosing. Under Mainecare, I have not choice.

There is a big difference between voluntary participation and forced participation. The may friend is a difference that is wider than the grand canyon.

Cris Johnson's picture

Think I got your point

It's true. I don't have to participate in the Community Supper, but if I do, I get fed and so does everybody else.

Neither does anyone have to buy health insurance, only contribute a nominal sum if they decide that they want no health insurance for themselves or their families.

Is that what you're complaining about? If so, I get your point.

For me, it's a moot one for we will never resolve it here. Good luck and please consider maintaining your coverage.

MARK GRAVEL's picture

ObamaCare is like forcing me

ObamaCare is like forcing me to attend your supper when I don’t want to attend, and telling me to me, a vegetarian, to bring a meat dish.

My health insurance policy has already been impacted by Obumma Care. My premiums increased 42%, my yearly deductible when from $200 to $6000, for what? A bunch of female services that I most assure you I’ll never need. This is kind of like forcing a vegetarian to buy meat.

Humans are free, free from government control, so let's shrink the size of government and live better, live free.

DONALD FERLAND's picture

Just maybe Me. Gravel you

Just maybe Me. Gravel you need to learn to shop around and change your policy. Or is it that you are one of those higher income individuals that have been getting things so cheap and now you have become a miser?

 's picture

There isn't much to shop.

Because of the ACA mandates there isn't much difference between policies except for deductibles and copays. There isn't even much selection for deductibles. Because all policies are required to offer the same coverage there is no significant price difference from one insurance company to the next. All policies are required to cover everything after a maximum out of pocket of $6,350 per year. The only difference between a silver or bronze plan is how they add up the deductibles and copays to reach $6,350. If I fall off a roof and require $35,000 in hospital treatment it won't matter to me what plan I have because I will be paying the same portion of the total.

DONALD FERLAND's picture

Mr Gravel not Me.

Mr Gravel not Me. Gravel....typo that I do apologize for

MARK GRAVEL's picture

Typos are part of life; I

Typos are part of life; I never apologize for life. Given that is all you have to say, which is really an empty set, the theme of my message is spot on.

You cannot win in life, if you don’t play in the game.

CAROLYN LIBBEY's picture

And, Mr. Timberlake, just how

And, Mr. Timberlake, just how many "able-bodied, childless adults" do you know personally. I suspect not many, and I am willing to bet your neighborhood is an affluent one, untarnished by the poor, many of whom really are deserving of help. Sure, there are no "guarantees" but politicians should at least represent all their constituents and not just the elite.

MARK GRAVEL's picture

Government is helping no one

Government is helping no one by talking money from Paul and giving it to Peter. While government really has no ability to create jobs, it can make policy that does not inhibit job growth, which is the solution to depressed incomes – more jobs. Perhaps President Obumma should move his focus to that realm instead of income redistribution.

Moreover, what do you think opening the doors to millions of immigrants is going to do to lift wages? It is certainly not going to help raise incomes of low skilled workers. Moreover, it will even push more financial burden onto the backs of the taxpayers; thus taking more money out of the hands of struggling families.

Obumma’s solutions do nothing but increase the gap between the rich and the poor. A healthy economy is the only solution.

Affordable health insurance options

Rep. Timberland states: "Why shouldn’t taxpayers insist that these 70,000 people buy the inexpensive new private market policies that have federally subsidized rates?"

Because they (or specifically, those who live below the poverty level) are not eligible for those subsidized plans. The tax credits are only available to families (of any stripes) at or above the poverty level. If you are below the poverty level, MaineCare is your ONLY option.

There are two options for solving the problem. Expand MaineCare. Or amend the federal law so that the tax credit is available to all families under the poverty level.

Rep. Timberlake says, "Too bad if you're poor, we can't afford to look after your health." How is it possible that we, the wealthiest nation on earth, cannot afford to look after our most vulnerable citizens? In his opinion, health care is something only middle class people are entitled to.

MARK GRAVEL's picture

Because we are not the

Because we are not the wealthiest nation on earth. Sure a lot of money moves around in the economy, but at the end of the day, American is a debtor nation - period.

Wealthiest nation on earth

It is preposterous for you to say the U.S. isn't the wealthiest on earth. Size of the economy. Value of the land. Average income. I could go own. That we have a big debt doesn't change that.

MARK GRAVEL's picture

It is not preposterous. I

It is not preposterous.

I have a friend who lives and works in San Francisco. He earns about $250k per year. He sounds wealthy relative to Maine income standards. However, he and his family live a very meager lifestyle. The only home he can afford is a 1300 square feet built in the 1940's at a cost of over $1 Million. The land is only worth what people are willing to pay for it. Land has no value if there is no one willing to purchase it.

When you only look at one side of a balance sheet , absolute dollars, you get a distorted perception of wealth. Wealth is accumulated; my friend has no income he can afford to accumulate even though he appears to be wealth if you only look at one side of the balance sheet.

The mere accounting of absolute dollars in this nation is by no means a measure of its wealth.

The fact that we have big debt, both personal and national, means few are building wealth; many have little money to pay for medical care of others let alone themselves.

 's picture

People whose income is below

People whose income is below the federal poverty level already qualify for Mainecare. People whose income is equal or higher than the federal poverty level qualify for tax credits through the exchange. Who are these people you mention that don't qualify for either Mainecare or health insurance tax credits?

Claudette Therriault's picture

David

I invite you to go on line to the website and put down a low income. Then respond that you are from Maine. You will get a message saying "because your state did not accept expanded medicaid, you are not eligible for a subsidy....."

MARK GRAVEL's picture

As it should be...

As it should be...

Claudette Therriault's picture

I know some young men who own

I know some young men who own small businesses and work 24/7. They pay their bills and that;s about. Expanded MaineCare would help them get medical care.

But the again, why should you care? You have no heart.

MARK GRAVEL's picture

I care to solve the greater problem that faces America.

But I do care, but perhaps not about giving everyone free healthcare.

I care that by 2025, payments for Social Security, Medicaid, Medicare and debt interest will exceed all federal revenues going into the budget. That is a world class problem in the making.

So, will you gladly trade free healthcare today for US and perhaps global suffrage tomorrow?

http://www.cbo.gov/sites/default/files/cbofiles/attachments/06-05-Long-T...

Mainecare eligibility

Not all people whose income is below the poverty level qualify for Mainecare. If you are a non-disabled adult without dependents, there is no Mainecare eligibility, regardless of income.

Claudette Therriault's picture

They would be if Maine had

They would be if Maine had accepted expanded MaineCare

MARK GRAVEL's picture

The homeless would have a

The homeless would have a home too if we forced you to house a few.

Claudette Therriault's picture

I HAVE housed a few homeless

I HAVE housed a few homeless in my home over the years. What have you done for the poor besides criticize them?

MARK GRAVEL's picture

P.S. I never criticize the

P.S. I never criticize the poor simply for being poor, you are mischaracterizing my statements.

I do, however, criticize the welfare system, especially when it makes payments to individuals who then purchase expensive toys.

Keeping charity local enables those who are giving the money to means test and weed out the gamers.

I also criticize those on welfare who continue to make life choices that keep them in their current state; hence, welfare should have limits to how long one can draw on those resources.

What you frequently refer to as poor, are really not poor compared to world standards. Yes, they may not have as many material things as others, but that is okay. In my opinion, the brand of welfare you support is not really a safety net, it is more like you are pushing income equality, which is not really equal when you consider those who are having money transferred out of their pocket. Those individuals did give up many hours to earn that money.

Claudette Therriault's picture

I have to agree with you on

I have to agree with you on the "expensive toys" statement. I've been to some clients' homes in the past and have seen all the adult toys in their yard.....snowmobiles, 4 wheelers, etc. True, they might have had those toys before their financial crisis happened. When you are in crisis, you do all you can to get out of it including selling your expensive toys.

MARK GRAVEL's picture

Personal Responsibility:

Let's take this point of agreement one step further. If a family does not have 6-12 months (12 preferred) worth of living expenses in the bank to whether financial stress, these people have no business buying adult toys in the first place. Yes, it may take a while to build those savings, but seeing all those adult toys when someone is in financial stress smacks of poor financial planning.

It makes me sick to know taxpayer dollars are going to help irresponsible people who will most likely continue to make the same bad choices.

Claudette Therriault's picture

Mark, do you have children?

Mark, do you have children? With a family, saving for 6-12 months is easier said than done. Quite often, things happen long before you can save that money. We saved here and there but one example of what happened is my husband getting hurt on the job, and had to to fight for his wc. We were a family of 5 and went 3 months without his income.

But then, we never had all the toys either. Our kids didn't not get extravagant Christmas presents. We tried to take the kids to a local theme park (Santa's Village) about every other year. That's when there friends were going to Disney World.

We purchased for our "needs" and not our "wants." Many working people don't understand that concept when they get into a financial crisis and continue with their 200 or so cable channels, expensive cell phone plans, gas guzzling SUV's, etc. That is irresponsible.

MARK GRAVEL's picture

Nice to know that we agree on

Nice to know that we agree on something.

MARK GRAVEL's picture

Good to hear you take action

Good to hear you take action that mattes, as opposed to some here who just want to push these issues off on government.
Charity should be local.

We all have to pick our battles. My stick is meals on wheels. That is all I have time and money for given that I also work two jobs to pay my bills and the bills of others.

MARK GRAVEL's picture

Correction

Good to hear you take action that matters.

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