Debate heats up over proposed Medicaid cuts

AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) — Even before Maine lawmakers begin their review of Medicaid cuts that could leave 65,000 people without coverage, the talk is heating up over Gov. Paul LePage's plan that's aimed at avoiding a $220 million state budget shortfall.

Repeating his argument that the state faces a fiscal crisis due to unsustainable Medicaid costs, LePage went a step further and said Democrats "would rather deny the numbers, skew facts and ignore the problem altogether."

"For decades, policies led by Democratic leadership have expanded Medicaid benefits far beyond the national average, creating an unsustainable program," a statement from LePage said.

He added that he's "committed to overseeing a government that is held accountable and fiscally responsible."

The Republican governor's statement followed a weekend in which he defended the cuts in his radio address, drawing a response by Democrats who labeled them "irresponsible and short-sighted" and warned of their consequences on the state's fragile economy.

The LePage administration says action must be taken to curb spending for Medicaid, known in the state as MaineCare, because it has outgrown Maine taxpayers' ability to pay for it. State officials say Medicaid accounts for 21 percent of state spending, up from 12.4 percent in 1998. Since 2002, Medicaid enrollment has grown by 78 percent while the state's population has grown only 7 percent.

The administration says money needed for Medicaid expenses during this second quarter of the fiscal year is being borrowed from fourth quarter allocations. Besides the prospect of the program running out of money by April 1, the administration warns that federal allocations are drying up and there are no more stimulus funds to bail out the program as in years prior.

LePage is looking for budget changes to remove certain groups from Medicaid, including childless adults and 19- and 20-year-olds, and eliminate several services that aren't federally required, such as podiatry and adult family care. The governor hopes legislators will authorize the changes by the end of January so the cuts can take effect in April.

Democrats warn the changes would drastically reduce critical services like drugs for the elderly, dental care and Head Start.

The verbal sparring ushers in days of review by the Appropriations Committee. The committee will hear Tuesday from Health and Human Services Commissioner Mary Mayhew and will take public testimony the next three days in sessions that could run into the evenings.

Groups representing residents who would be affected by the cuts were organizing rallies Monday and marshaling troops to testify at the hearings. The Maine People's Alliance website provided online postcards that people could use to register their concerns with the Appropriations Committee. The Maine Children's Alliance planned a State House rally as the hearings begin Wednesday. AARP plans to testify against what it sees as shortsighted legislation.

The Maine Council of Churches organized a "Prayer Vigil for a Moral Budget" during each day's hearings.

House Democratic leader Emily Cain of Orono said her caucus is committed to passing a bipartisan budget package to make up for the gap between revenues and spending, but it's too soon to say what that would include or when it might get through the Legislature.

"The Legislature needs to have a clear understanding of the assumptions made and anticipated time line built into the governor's proposed DHHS budget," Cain said. That will be the job of the Appropriations Committee in the days ahead, she said. "This is a huge proposed set of changes."

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Comments

ANTHONY NAZAR's picture

Maine Medicaid a subsidy for big boxes

They typically do not offer their employees health care coverage and most certainly do not pay the 20 hour/wk no benefit employee enough to buy food let alone health insurance. The company bottom line is inflated at taxpayer expense by hiring two part timers rather than one full timer.

The State of Maryland was looking at a solution that brought on a broadside from Benton, Arkansas. They proposed a surtax on companies that expected their employees to be insured by the state. I'm not sure if anyone in the Maryland capitol was left standing after the combined lawyer/flack attack or if those who did survive had the courage to stand up to the Waltons, a family that would surely have been impoverished by the demands of the little people.

The obvious answer is to either tax job creators who game the system this way or go to universal single payer government run health insurance with sharp constraints on the greedy who would charge 2000% markups on drugs and call it payback for R&D.

 's picture

Let's not forget that if the

Let's not forget that if the governor and legislature had NOT given the wealthiest among us MASSIVE income tax cuts, then we would NOT be in this situation. What's more important, millionaires paying taxes on their airplane repairs, or the elderly getting the drugs they need to survive?

Sandra Coulombe's picture

I can remember a time when if

I can remember a time when if a woman was pregnant she could get medicaid to cover her medical care while she was pregnant and for 1 year after giving birth. Even if the child's father was in the home he did not get coverage and after a year only the child could get coverage. Other than that it was only for children, the disabled, and the elderly. You know the folks who have no choice in being able to work harder to take care of themselves.
I personally think it is time it goes back to that and then we wouldn't need the drastic cuts to care the elderly and disabled truly need. I have zero issue helping to take care of the elderly and disabled. I have serious issue supporting able bodied adults.

Sue Crosby's picture

gov.the more I hear

I am so irritated with all these cuts that are going to hurt maine low income people, disabled, and seniors. The disabled and seniors have worked and earned these benifits and deserve them. It's really going some when the government can't take care of their own but can send money over seas to help them out. I was always told charity begins at home... hmmmmm make you wonder. The government have good pay checks so they don't know what it is like to live in poverty. The Governor stated he grew up poor and should understand what his parents went through. Shame on him for enforcing such cuts. Come on repersenative Snow, we need your help to stop these cuts. It does not make much since to me that they would make these cuts just to have people go to the emg room and to the hospital when sick. How will the government pay for this if one is uninsured. Disappointed in our Government

CLAIRE GAMACHE's picture

Politics as usual

There are several reasons why people should question the "facts" coming out of the governor's office. First of all there were all the cases of voter fraud that turned out not to exist. A credibility gap? Secondly, the shortfall went from 50 million to 200 million in a matter of months with no explanation of where exactly this increase came from. Thirdly, the firing of all the people who ran the agency and who knew what the shortfall is and how it occurred just before the governor announced his cuts. Way too convenient. The claim that the large increase in the cost of Medicaid is related to a large increase in claimants. Since the cost of private health insurance went up 200% in the same time period and the population of the state got older it would seem normal that medicare costs would have gone up even with fewer claimants. Most significantly the State has gotten involved in a lawsuit against the new national health care bill. It is an odd coincidence that the benefits the governor want to cut pretty much match up with the benefits those states with less coverage will have to add when it is implemented. Why would we want to kick people off who will have to be put back on unless it is a political move to influence the 2012 election or a plan B in case the law suit fails.

Ellen Levesque's picture

I know of someone that has 3

I know of someone that has 3 children that were born out of wedlock and have become 4th generation welfare takers. This cycle needs to be stopped. Please leave the elderly who can't take care of themselves alone, and get the leeches who can work and the immigrants who should not be here if they don't have sponsors off the dole. Catholic Charities brought the immigrants here--let them support them.

CLAIRE GAMACHE's picture

Adults without children

There is limited information available on exactly what the cuts to medicare will be but according to what I have read, and I pray to God I am incorrect, elderly people living in residential care with advanced Alzheimer's will no longer be covered by medicare. These are the saddest, most helpless, most vulnerable people in the state. They have worked all their lives, raised families, had their savings taken by the nursing homes and now that they have no money, and are totally helpless, the state will take away the only chance they have. It would be the cruelest government policy since Mao marched his citizens into the country to freeze and starve to death. If it does come to pass it will be interesting to see the Republicans in the legislature run for reelection on this policy.

CLAIRE GAMACHE's picture

Not true

For your information Catholic Charities did not bring immigrants to Maine. The Federal Government is responsible for the resettlement of all immigrants in this country. They in turn hire agencies to aid in the resettlement of these immigrants once they arrive here. Catholic Charities has no authority to grant visas or work permits or citizenship papers and has no say in who or where immigrants go. They help them to adjust once they are here and are paid to do this by your government. Most of the immigrants in this community have not been brought here by anyone. They moved here from other communities within the United States. They have the same right to move from one state to another that you have and as far as I know no state has been granted the right to screen who can move in from another state.

Ellen Levesque's picture

And for your information, I

And for your information, I remember reading a story on the front page of the Sun Journal quite a number of years ago which pictured one gentleman and I believe if my memory serves me right eight women and children that the Catholic Charities was bringing to Lewiston and setting up in an apartment. They were asking for donations of warm clothes and so forth as it was in the winter and the folks were not used to snow and cold. It WAS the catholic charities and it was the beginning of what was to come. You can say what you want but I will always blame the catholic charities for the problems we are now encountering. They should not come to the united states without sponsor and jobs as the immigrants that came through Ellis Island did so many years ago.

CLAIRE GAMACHE's picture

still not factual

Catholic charities probably did find an apartment for a family that was settling here. That is what they do . They help the poor, the children, the sick and the elderly. They are paid by the government to extend their services to refugees. They would also help you to find an apartment if you were homeless and needed help. They do not however sponsor, or bring immigrants. The Federal Government does that. The government determines who comes and where they are settled. After a year the immigrants are free to move wherever they want. Many of them have chosen to move here. Many of them have lived in this country for 10 years or more. There are also many people whom you consider to be immigrants who actually have attained citizenship. I have also noticed that many of the people whom you might consider immigrants are gainfully employed. I see them in the stores and hospitals.

Jeff Douglas's picture

catholic charities

catholic charties moved people from thier alanta area services to lewiston and portland. they didnt bring them into the US but they did cover moving expenses and encouraged people to move to here.

CLAIRE GAMACHE's picture

Wrong again

This did not ring true to me but I didn't know for sure so I called and checked. The government brings immigrants to this country and pays Catholic Charities to help them resettle for 8 months. After that they are on their own and they can move wherever they want. Catholic Charities does not help them to move or encourage them to move or pay anything towards their travel or resettlement in another community. Once they have moved Catholic Charities treats them like anyone else and will help them if they qualify for help and there are resources available. All the ones I have asked have told me they moved here because they had friends or family and because they hated living in the big city because they are basically a rural people. That is the reason they looked for a fairly rural place to live. Some have told me they came here from Atlanta, some from Colorado, and some from Minneapolis.

Jim Cyr's picture

Wrong again,

Ms. Gamache, maybe you should have a talk with Ms. Tara !!! Nice "Spin"

CLAIRE GAMACHE's picture

Who?

Is that a reference to Gone with the Wind? I got my information from one of the directors at Catholic Charities. But I guess you would know more about it than they would.

Jim Cyr's picture

Ms. Tara

was our Ex-Mayor and did she not work directly with the charity for these relocations of the refuges??

GARY SAVARD's picture

It is painful to be broke,

It is painful to be broke, but the Country is broke, the State of Maine is broke, and these groups that have been feeding at the public trough for years will have to adjust to that fact because we're not coming out of this mess any time soon. The shear magnitude of people that are on these programs boggles the mind, anyway. We apparently have gone way beyond helping the helpless to the point where we avail these services at taxpayer expense to anyone at any age, with the only qualification being that they be too lazy to support themselves in many, many cases. At least Governor Lepage has the courage to tackle this beast and not just kick it down the road like our previous governor.

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