Entries Filed in 'Health Care'
By State Senator Colleen Lachowicz, representing Senate District 25.
With the second session of the 126th Legislature now behind us, I want to give you an update on some of what we accomplished this year and where there is still work to be done. While Governor LePage’s obstructionism threatened our progress at times, ultimately the Legislature came together to pass sound policies that will have far reaching benefits for the people of Maine.
This year, I fought hard to ensure that children with autism spectrum disorder receive the care and treatment they need. As a licensed Clinical Social Worker I have worked in the mental health field for more than 25 years and have witnessed the dramatic rise in the incidence of autism and the impact it has had on Maine families.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has named Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) the fastest growing developmental disability in the United States, with one in 68 children now identified with the disorder. In fact, Maine is now the state with the third highest rate of autism prevalence in the country.
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Congressman Mike Michaud is a founding member of the new State Medicaid Expansion Caucus. The Caucus will work to highlight the need for states which have not yet expanded Medicaid to do so, citing primarily the economic impact of extending the opportunity to obtain insurance to more people. Despite bipartisan legislation supporting an extension, Maine’s governor has vetoed a Medicaid expansion five times.
“Extending reliable, affordable healthcare to Mainers who need it isn’t just the right thing to do, but it’s also sound policy,” said Michaud. “Expanding Medicaid brings much-needed federal funds to Maine, spurs our economy and creates new jobs, and boosts our overall population health. I’m looking forward to working with my fellow caucus members on raising awareness about the importance of Medicaid expansion – the stakes are too high for us not to act.”
Extending Medicaid in Maine would provide healthcare coverage for nearly 70,000 Mainers – including approximately 3,000 veterans. The expansion would also stimulate upwards of $350 million in economic activity – including $250 million in additional federal funding – and create an estimated 3,100 jobs.
Twenty-six states and the District of Columbia have extended Medicaid to date, allowing an estimated 10.5 million Americans to access affordable healthcare.
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Tags: ACA in Maine·Congressman Mike Michaud
Maine State Capitol photo by Ramona du Houx
Top Democratic leaders slammed Governor Paul LePage’s administration for playing politics with money that could help struggling nursing homes across the state. LePage announced that for weeks his administration has been working on a plan to provide $4.6 million in state funding to nursing homes, in addition to the $12 million already provided by the Legislature as part of LD 1776. Funds were allocated by the Legislature without LePage’s approval for nursing homes. But for weeks LePage has been inaccurately blaming Democrats for failing to fund nursing homes. And at a press conference the Governor bizarrely claimed credit for the bill, that helps nursing homes, although his signature is not on the law.
“The Governor’s announcement is more proof that he’s been playing politics with nursing homes. Why would he sit on $4.6 million in savings when nursing homes were struggling? And why would he call on lawmakers to return to Augusta when he already had the funding?” said Speaker of the House Mark Eves. “The timing of this announcement is clearly meant to distract from his poor track record for Maine seniors and his latest out-of-touch comment labeling Social Security as Welfare. It’s smoke and mirrors.”
In addition, LePage has consistently taken funds from healthcare initiatives to help balance his budgets and give a substantial tax break to Maine’s 1 percent. LePage raided the Fund for Healthy Maine, which are monies the state receives from the federal government as part of the nationwide tabacco settlement. Governor Baldacci, LePage’s predecessor, never allocated money from the Fund for a Healthy Maine for anything other than healthcare related issues, as a matter of principle. Baldacci had stated, “the health and well being of Maine citizens has to be any governor’s top priority.”
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Representative Matt Moonen speaking to the crowd about the dangers of phthalates. On the right is Emily Postman, Alliance for a Clean and Healthy Maine. courtesy photo
In Portland’s Monument Square in June citizens were given a chance to guess which common household products contain hormone-disrupting chemicals called phthalates. Hawkers offered passers-by a chance to win a prize for correctly identifying the products containing phthalates, but participants quickly realized there was no way to know, because information on phthalates is not provided on packaging or available in an internet search.
“It’s time to take the guesswork out of keeping our kids safe from phthalates. Maine’s Kid-Safe Products Act is a powerful tool for helping us get better information about which products contain dangerous chemicals, but it’s not being used to its potential. The citizen-initiated rule before the DEP would help parents and pregnant women avoid dangerous products and it would create market incentives for safer alternatives. It’s simple and common sense,” said Rep. Matt Moonen, a state legislator from Portland. “I urge the DEP to adopt it quickly.”
Phthalates are commonly used to soften vinyl plastic and are routinely added to hundreds of everyday products and building materials found in the home. They are also a frequent ingredient of “fragrance” found in many lotions, cosmetics, and other personal care products.
“Our children’s health shouldn’t be a game of chance,” said Barbara DiBiase, a grandmother from Falmouth. “It’s a very frustrating situation. Parents and pregnant women have a right to know which products contain these dangerous chemicals called phthalates.”
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Rep. Mark Eves answers questions from the press. Photo by Ramona du Houx
Speaker of the Maine House of Representatives Mark Eves of North Berwick will address The Opportunity Alliance’s annual recognition of Foster Grandparents and Senior Companions at a luncheon held in their honor at the Italian Heritage Center in Portland at 11:30 a.m. on Friday, June 27, 2014.
Maine is the oldest state in the nation and the older population is growing rapidly. It’s projected that one in four Mainers will be over the age of 65 by 2030.
“The work of the Alliance provides an excellent model for how Maine can turn the challenges we face with our aging population into an opportunity,” said Eves, who has spearheaded a statewide initiative on aging. “The senior volunteers in these programs make a huge difference in our communities. They provide opportunity across generations and to their peers, while positively impacting so many lives.”
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Gov. Paul LePage’s ideological vetoes of life-saving health care for Maine citizens has further hamstrung Maine’s economy, according to new data from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis.
According to a report in the Portland Press Herald, Maine was 39th nationally and last among the six New England states in first-quarter personal income growth, in part because Governor LePage refused to participate in Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act. By failing to expand health care, Maine has forgone more than $160 million in revenue since Jan. 1, 2014 and has lost out on 4,400 jobs.
LePage is the only Governor in the country to have vetoed five different measures to expand Medicaid, including a bipartisan proposal sponsored by Assistant Republican Minority Leader Roger Katz of Augusta.
“The Governor’s ideological vetoes of health care have hurt our people and our economy,” said Speaker of the House Mark Eves of North Berwick, who sponsored several measures to accept the federal funds to expand access to health care for Maine people. “Once again, we are seeing how governing by Tea Party ideology has hurt our state.”
Meanwhile, LePage wasted nearly $500,000 in taxpayer funds on the embattled and plagiarized Alexander Group contract meant to discredit efforts to expand Medicaid.
Last year, the Governor undercut a multi-million-dollar offshore wind deal with leading energy company Statoil. The project would have created a legacy industry and created hundreds of jobs by putting Maine on the cutting edge of renewable energy. He also held up investment bonds for three years–stalling shovel-ready projects and preventing the creation of hundreds of jobs across the state.
“Report after report shows us that the LePage economy is not working. Here we are again: Maine finds itself at the bottom of the pack, trailing behind most of the nation. This time, working Mainers’ personal incomes are ranked last in New England,” said Senate President Justin Alfond of Portland. “Mainers are frustrated with the slow recovery of jobs. We need a leader who is ready to prioritize every day Mainers and build off of our competitive advantages.”
Under Governor LePage, Maine’s job growth has remained at the back of the pack nationally. Among the 50 states, Maine ranks 46th in jobs recovered since the bottom of the recession.
Maine State Capitol. Photo by Ramona du Houx
The LePage administration on Tuesday again failed to meet with the Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee and left unanswered major questions around the troubled MaineCare rides program, including more than $5 million in unexplained payments to a failing broker and the Department of Health and Human Services’ plan to manage the upcoming rides broker transition.
“Maine people deserve to know why the administration continues to waste millions of taxpayer dollars on a failed vendor with a miserable performance record,” said Senator Dawn Hill of York, the Senate Chair of the Appropriations Committee. “For months we have sought to resolve these issues, but at each turn we are stonewalled by the administration. We can’t do it alone and we certainly can’t do it without adequate answers.”
Rather than sending a representative, DHHS provided meager written responses to pressing questions about the rides program and other important services for Maine’s most vulnerable residents.
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Tags: DHHS in Maine
Concerned citizens call for justice by holding Mallinckrodt legally responsible for decades of mercury pollution.
“Corporate polluters across America are watching this case closely and waiting to see if a big corporation with deep pockets can break the law, pollute our waterways and not be held responsible,” said MPA Executive Director Jesse Graham. “At stake in this historic trial is the citizens’ right to hold corporations – no matter how rich or powerful – fully accountable for the damage they inflict on our environment and public health.”
Concerned Mainers from up and down the Penobscot River Watershed gathered outside the federal courthouse in Bangor this morning to speak out publicly before the court convenes for a hearing on a lawsuit brought by the Maine People’s Alliance and the Natural Resources Defense Council as part of a 20-year legal fight to hold corporate polluter Mallinckrodt responsible for decades of mercury pollution.
“It’s time for our river to be restored so that we can once again feel safe fishing and eating the lobster and other seafood in that region,” said MPA member Tim Conmee of Orrington. “We need the corporation that has been found responsible for the pollution to be held accountable for cleaning it up. It’s well past time for Mallinckrodt to make this right.”
The crowd, including lobstermen and local parents called on Mallinckrodt, a subsidiary of pharmaceutical and medical device giant Covidien, to end their delay tactics and finally take responsibility for the mercury contamination caused by the former HoltraChem plant in Orrington, Maine.
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Two weeks ago Maine parents, physicians, and public health advocates delivered 2,071 petitions to the Maine Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), more than ten times the number needed to compel the DEP to consider new rules for chemicals called phthalates (pronounced THAL-ates). The clock started ticking on a 60-day deadline for the agency to initiate a rule-making procedure, but a public hearing was not guaranteed – until today.
“Maine parents have a right to know which products contain these dangerous chemicals,” stated Barbara DiBiase of Falmouth. “Phthalates are among the worst of the worst and put our children’s health in jeopardy. It’s time for a public hearing on what we’re going to do about it.”
This morning a group of Maine people, all of whom have been frustrated at the lack of information about which household products contain the hormone-disrupting chemicals, mailed the DEP 18 official requests for a public hearing. Five requests by Maine citizens are required to initiate a hearing under the Maine Administrative Procedures Act.
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Last night three officials from the Department of Veterans Affairs appeared before the Veterans’ Affairs Committee in a rare, four hour evening hearing. Veterans conditions have gotten worse and are being neglected at some VA hospitals and care facilities.
“While I was encouraged to finally have direct engagement between members of our Committee and the VA, there are still many more answers we need about what happened at Phoenix and other VA facilities, and what steps we can all take to ensure they aren’t repeated. Our committee is united in a bipartisan fashion on this, and we intend to continue pushing the VA for answers until we have a system in place that ensures our veterans are receiving the care they are so deserving of,” said Congressman Mike Michaud.
The Inspector General’s interim report confirmed that many of the alleged failures happening to veterans in care at the Phoenix facility were based in fact. The report includes several very clear steps Secretary Shinseki can take immediately to give veterans the care and medical attention they need without waiting.
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Tags: Veterans·Veterans in Maine