L. Lockman: Which vision will prevail?

Look no further than the recent debate over Medicaid reform for evidence that two fundamentally different philosophies of government are competing for the allegiance of Maine voters.

In a recent op-ed column, Rep. Mark Eves, D-North Berwick, made the case for the Democrats’ progressive, redistributionist philosophy that has prevailed for the past four decades in Augusta. Rep. Eves is proud of the fact that more Maine families than ever before are dependent on government for health care. In fact, he celebrates the rapid expansion of Medicaid enrollment over the past 10 years as a positive development. He actually thinks Maine people are healthier and more productive because of this “wise investment” of public funds.

His proposed solution to the $220 million Medicaid budget shortfall is for Augusta to impose more regulations on health-care providers and patients. He claims that government-mandated cost-control measures would save tens of millions of dollars right away, and even more “over the years.”

Incredibly, Rep. Eves faults Gov. Paul LePage for the current budget shortfall. For readers who are by now rolling up their eyes in disbelief at the absurdity of this charge, just wait. It gets even better.

Rep. Eves insists that rolling back Medicaid enrollment from the current level of more than 350,000 Mainers to about 280,000 — where it was before the rapid expansion — is “immoral.” That’s right. The Republican reform plan to preserve the safety net and save Medicaid for the sick, the elderly and the disabled is “unconscionable” and “immoral.”

I’ll leave it to others to judge the morality of a previous administration that expanded coverage and then stopped paying health-care providers, leaving the new administration with hundreds of millions of dollars worth of unpaid hospital bills for Medicaid patients.

Clearly, there is no middle ground between what Rep. Eves and his progressive colleagues want and what needs to be done to keep Medicaid from going broke. There is no way to split the difference between these competing visions of Maine’s future. Maine voters will decide this November which vision they favor.

Will we be an entitlement state and a welfare magnet that encourages dependency on government, or will we throw off the shackles of the Nanny State so that our children and grandchildren can find economic opportunity right here in Maine?

I believe Maine people can build a robust economy and take care of the neediest among us if the bureaucracies in Augusta will just clean up their acts and get out of the way. We can’t afford to go back to business as usual. It will be up to Maine voters in November to decide what kind of future we will have.

Lawrence E. Lockman, Amherst

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Comments

Mark Brennick's picture

People need to realize that

People need to realize that the Bush tax cuts are going to cost 1.5 trillon over 10 years.Right now we're spending 1.5 trillon over what we collect for taxes EVERY YEAR,so the argument the tax cuts are to blame is only a fraction of the problem.We need to get serious about spending.Anyone who thinks different does not know economics 101.Even if we take away the Bush tax cuts we're in a hole.

MARK GRAVEL's picture

I would also say that we are

I would also say that we are in a hole and digging deeper. Many people do not realize the enormity of the problem.

The economy, as is, is at artificially inflated due to the debt spending, and it will hurt all the more when the debt spending has to stop.

MARK GRAVEL's picture

Your statement is predicated

Your statement is predicated on the assumption that we are spending prudently. I’m game for Clinton era tax rates if and only if we get Clinton era federal budgets.

Here is a good read for you:

Why taxing the rich will not balance the budget.

http://discussions.agweb.com/showthread.php?12384-Why-taxing-the-rich-wi....

MARK GRAVEL's picture

The Nanny state is bound to

The Nanny state is bound to collapse; it is just a matter of when.

As the number of people receiving from the state increase and the number of people paying that tab decrease, there will come an inflection point where the people footing the bill had enough.

As revenues fall, the Government will have to raise the tax rate on everyone in an attempt to keep the machine going. At that point, we’ll see a surge in the underground economy.

If you think this cannot happen, all we have to do is look at the Greek economy.

MARK GRAVEL's picture

I hope republicans continue

I hope republicans continue to cut taxes, because frankly, I’m tired of being asked to pay more every time I turnaround.

I can see how you think this is ruining the country if you’re on the receiving end. It is a bit of relief if you’re on the paying end of the deal. It is a bit demoralizing when I work 80 hrs. a week and lose a good portion of my labor to taxes. Perhaps you should try it some time to see what it is like – working and paying taxes.

Anyhow, government spending still seems to keep growing doesn’t it?

MARK GRAVEL's picture

“I can state that you are

“I can state that you are paying a lot less in taxes now”

Actually you’re wrong. Twenty years ago I was curious how much I paid in taxes when I included all taxes and fees, so I started keeping detailed records. Al though there has been some downward ticks, the straight line approximation indicates a positive slope of about 4% per year over the twenty year period.

I pay more taxes today, both as a percentage of income and in absolute dollars, than I did a decade ago.

This country is not going down the tubes because I work and pay taxes. It is going down the tubes because government at all levels is spending too much.

If you still think I’m part of the problem, perhaps I should retire, pay much less in taxes, and put myself on the receiving end – that will show them!

CLAIRE GAMACHE's picture

In the real world

The changes in the role of government were brought about by very real changes in the state of medical care in this country. A massive increase in the cost of prescriptions and medical care accompanied by a 200% increase in health insurance premiums have resulted in a crisis that cannot be ignored by a government that promises its citizens life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. The leading cause of bankruptcy in this country is being sick and even the leading proponent against the national health care law went bankrupt last month because of medical bills. Not only that, recent surveys show we pay more than other moderns countries for worse care. All of this points to a problem, which, by the way, was seriously compounded by the collapse of the economy, that calls for a solution. Just letting people die from curable diseases because they aren't rich doesn't sound like a viable solution to me.

MARK GRAVEL's picture

We are living history, so

We are living history, so we’ll see what oBamaCare does to the cost of healthcare.

 's picture

I'll apologize for Mark.

He should use the formal term HusseinCare. Your mom must be rolling her eyes.

MARK GRAVEL's picture

Get over it! ObamaCare is a

Get over it!

ObamaCare is a widely used euphemize just like Reaganomis - just google it.

Perhaps someday you can stop playing the victim.

 's picture

really?

"throw off the shackles of the Nanny State" See, all we have to do is deny the less fortunate health care, and the economy will take right off!

1. Deny health care
2. ??
3. Profit!

 's picture

The Democrat program:

1. Keep running DHHS the same way it's been run for 10+ years.
2. Make even more people dependent on the state.
3. Hope for different results.

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

Slavery is alive and well.

Slavery is alive and well. Just take a look at the numbers of people receiving some form of government assistance at the municipal, state, or federal levels. And every adult recipient is a vote for the democrats. Cradle to grave nannyism. Nice.

DONALD FERLAND's picture

With no offense meant towards

With no offense meant towards Mr. Lockman, I believe he should look at the current facts that have come to light. The legislature was asked to solve a budget shortfall without having all the information that was needed. With the latest discovery of 19,000 receiving Maine Care benefits after having been declared ineligible there will now be an even larger shortfall as the state will have to repay the federal government. It has also come to light that Ms. Mayhew knew this information at least as early as January and her staff knew even earlier than that. We all know that change needs to happen, however, how can there be fiscal change/responsibility when the legislature is not given all the information required to make an informed decision.

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

In the old days the 19,000

In the old days the 19,000 ineligible recipients would have been required to pay back the money that was wrongly sent to them. It is stealing and stealing is against the law, isn't it?
And, before the maelstrom of bleeding hearts arrives, even though the money was sent in error, the recipients knew or should have known that they weren't entitled to those benefits and keeping that money was wrong. It's black and white, but it'll get very grey before it's over.

DONALD FERLAND's picture

First, there would need to be

First, there would need to be evidence that the 19,000 knew they were ineligible. Second, I know of a specific case where the woman went to work and got insurance through her job. She took the new insurance information to the pharmacy and refilled a prescription. The pharmacy then put the request for payment through to Maine Care instead of to the new insurance plan. When she found out what they had done she questioned it and called the state to report it. Is she responsible for the money paid by Maine Care? I would think not.

If any of the 19,000 knew they were ineligible and continued to use the Maine Care then yes, by all means, make them pay it back. But if any of 19,000 did as this woman did then they should not be held responsible for the charges, in her case it should be the pharmacy that mischarged the system.

And to clear up a misunderstanding. The article said money is loaded on the Maine Care cards to pay medical bills. This is not money that a recipient actually has access to. In most cases, the insurance information is on file with doctors offices and pharmacies and their billing systems put in the request for authorization to accept to the state system. Then the system tells them that the person is either eligible or ineligible, or if it is too soon for them to fill a prescription. Most medical offices only require that you show your insurance information once a year unless there has been a problem with billing in the past. So I would think, before blaming the 19,000 and requiring them to pay back the funds we would need to know if they were using the card intentionally or if there was a bigger problem in that the billing systems of the medical professionals were billing Maine Care because the information was not changed in their systems. If the client told them they no longer had Maine Care and it was not changed in their systems then it is not the fault of the client.

I think if everyone were looking at this honestly we would have to say that there is still a lot to be uncovered in this current screw up. The whole health care system is a problem that needs to be fixed. That not only does DHHS need to fix their systems but the medical profession needs their billing systems to be looked at so mistakes in billing such as the woman who tried to get a new insurance billed isn't an issue as well.

And here is something else to think about, how many people actually look at the details of the bills they receive as a copy of who paid what...most that I know just look to see that whatever their insurance was suppose to pay is paid and if they have a balance then how much it is. Not many take the time to actually look and see which insurance was billed.

MARK GRAVEL's picture

Even though the situation you

Even though the situation you cite was an honest mistake, it needs to be corrected. Maine Care should have been reimbursed and the charge submitted the women’s insurance.

DONALD FERLAND's picture

Which is what the woman was

Which is what the woman was trying to do, she called the state and brought it to their attention and she brought it to the attention of the pharmacy. Does that mean that either the state or the pharmacy corrected the problem? Who knows at this point.

MARK GRAVEL's picture

I applaud the women for doing

I applaud the women for doing what is right – kudos. Unfortunately the system is so broken, as you said, who knows if the error got corrected.

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

I agree with all but the last

I agree with all but the last paragraph, Tina. Just because most of us don't look at the details of copies of the bills we receive does not absolve any of us of the responsibilities that lie therein.

 's picture

Long before the current administration ...

... the top management of DHHS knew the computer system was inadequate and "solved" the problem by throwing $50+ million down the crapper on a new system that never worked. In all that time, how many state employees responsible for the mess were even reprimanded, let alone fired? Zero. Perhaps you can guess why.

It's more than a little disingenuous to heap all the blame on the current crew and to demand complete fiscal responsibility from a legislature that has had little or no experience in that area for almost 40 years.

Change. What a joke. Any attempted change from the Democrat status quo is immediately jumped on by liberal hyenas as another right wing attempt to kick granny out in the snow.

DONALD FERLAND's picture

I am not putting the "blame"

I am not putting the "blame" for this particular issue on the current administration. However, I am putting the "blame" for not coming clean about it earlier on them. They knew there was a budget shortfall, they asked the legislature to make cuts to cover that shortfall, the did NOT give the legislature all the information to make an informed decision. This latest problem is going to create an even larger shortfall as we are going to end up paying the federal government back which in turn is going to create an even bigger problem that will need to be addressed. What was the benefit of holding this information until now? There is now more mistrust then before. And it also appears that now there is proof that the administration will withhold pertinent information if they believe it will benefit what they want to accomplish. So much for transparency in government. Now we have to go and fill an even bigger shortfall (in which we still do not know the exact amount of) instead of being able to do it all at one time. Another waste of time and money.

Change...not a joke. People would more likely accept change if it wasn't accomplished in such a back handed manner. And by that I mean....be open with ALL the facts and not just the ones that you pick and choose.

MARK GRAVEL's picture

To be honest, government in

To be honest, government in general is so big, inefficient, and incompetent, it does not know where all the money goes.

It sounds like you are presenting a good argument for smaller government at all levels. I concur.

MARK GRAVEL's picture

Cutting funding is how you

Cutting funding is how you get smaller Government. It is called starving the beast.

MARK GRAVEL's picture

I can see how you think that

I can see how you think that way if your world is entitlements. On the flip side, it is renaissances to those who foot the bill.

MARK GRAVEL's picture

Maybe it is Bush’s fault, and

Maybe it is Bush’s fault, and the new administration needs time to fix the big mess that last administration left.

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