Rep. Jeff Timberlake wrote March 22 in support of a much needed MaineCare rescue for Maine’s nursing homes (LD 1776) but opposed accepting federal funds to provide MaineCare coverage to 70,000 who can’t afford insurance (LD 1487). He suggested legislators must choose between those bills.

That is untrue.

MaineCare expansion would use federal funding targeted for that purpose. Accepting those funds has no effect on funds available for nursing home payments.

Opponents say expansion helps the “able-bodied.” Yet most of those “able bodies” are working hard, at wages too low to pay for health care after food, rent and heat. Others, not “disabled,” have serious health conditions. Why turn down federally funded health insurance that will provide treatment they need to continue working their way out of poverty?

The assertion of an “$800 million” price tag for expansion is unfounded. The scrupulously non-partisan Office of Fiscal and Program Review found the cost to be negligible. And that cost is dwarfed by over $900,000 a day in new, job-creating spending. If offered such massive federal highway or military funding, state officials would accept without hesitation. Why should an economic infusion that provides Maine a healthier workforce, while helping our neighbors, be any less attractive?

Seizing an historic opportunity to help our neighbors and boost the economy by expanding MaineCare won’t prevent the state from providing urgently needed help to nursing homes and the frail elderly they serve.

Nothing is gained by pitting one vulnerable and needy population against another.

Rep. Timberlake should support both measures.

Charles Dingman, Leeds

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