Entries Filed in 'Healthy Lifestyles'
The Health Exchange Advisory Committee on Monday heard that while consumers are finding great improvement with the Affordable Care Act website, many Mainers are falling into the coverage gap created by Gov. Paul LePage’s refusal to accept federal health care dollars.
“Maine consumers are having a much better experience with healthcare.gov. For anyone who wants health care starting Jan. 1, now is the time to sign up, whether it’s through the website, over the phone or in person,” said Rep. Sharon Anglin Treat, co-chair of the committee. “The coverage gap is a big problem. It’s clearly a problem not only for the people who don’t have insurance but also for the affordability and functioning of the entire health care system.”
The Affordable Care Act anticipated that the states would expand their Medicaid programs so more of their residents would have access to health care coverage. Because of LePage’s actions, 70,000 Mainers, including 3,000 veterans, will not have the access they were intended to have under the ACA. An estimated 25,000 Mainers who won’t have coverage through MaineCare expansion are also ineligible for subsidies through the health care marketplace.
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Maine’s economy has not improved for Maine’s children and families according to the 2013 Maine KIDS COUNT Data Book, an annual compilation of evidence-based data on the status and well-being of children in Maine.
“Investing in young children is an investment in the future prosperity of Maine,” Ned McCann, executive director of MCA, stated. “At the Maine Children’s Alliance we have been concerned that during the time that more of Maine’s children are getting poorer, fewer are receiving support to help them through their financial hardships.”
Kids Count reports that in 2011 (the most recent data available), 19.3 percent of all Maine children under age 18 were living in poverty-an increase from 18.2 percent in 2010 as reported last year. Childhood poverty varied widely across Maine’s sixteen counties, from a low of 13.6 percent in York County to a high of 31.2 percent in Washington County.
Among Maine children under age five, almost one in four were living in poverty. Along the same lines, Maine’s median income of families with children dropped to $53,400 in 2012-down slightly from $53,600 in 2011. Maine families are getting by on incomes much lower than their New England neighbors and the nation as a whole.
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The Health Exchange Advisory Committee will continue to hear about hospital outreach to the uninsured when it meets Monday. A focus of the meeting on Dec. 2, will be the consumer outreach and enrollment efforts of MaineHealth, the largest owner of hospitals and medical facilities in the state. The meeting is scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. in Room 228 (Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee) of the State House.
The hospital outreach presentation, by Carol Zechman, MaineHealth’s Access to Care Programs director, and Deborah Deatrick, the organization’s senior vice president of Community Health Improvement, continues the panel’s information gathering on hospital efforts to help uninsured Mainers gain coverage in the health care marketplace.
“Hospitals are well-positioned to help Mainers gain the security of health care coverage available through the Affordable Care Act,” said Rep. Sharon Anglin Treat, co-chair of the committee. “Their leadership roles in communities across the state, their interactions with both insured and uninsured Mainers seeking care and their connections to the greater medical community give them a critical role in making the ACA work for Maine people.”
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Tags: Health and Human Services
Lawmakers expressed mounting frustration with the ongoing problems with the new transportation system for MaineCare patients, and the slow progress in finding solutions, during this morning’s Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee meeting.
“Certainly, transitions come with bumps in the road. We expected that. But this is beyond growing pains,” said Senator Dawn Hill, the Senate Chair of the committee. “The contracts were awarded because we expected the brokers to have the capacity, experience, and expertise to provide these services. People cannot wait for dialysis or a diagnosis from their doctor while the brokers get their act together.”
Since August when the Department of Health and Human Services switched from a transportation program operated by local nonprofits to a regional system run by so-called ride brokers, the new system has been plagued with failures and complaints.
Since the change, clients have had difficulty booking rides. Patients have missed appointments because rides have been delayed, or failed to show up completely. In one case, a woman’s three-year-old son with developmental disabilities was taken to the wrong house.
“The people of Maine are paying $28 million for services that are not being delivered,” said Rep. Peggy Rotundo, the House Chair of the committee. “This is a critically serious issue that needs to be solved immediately.”
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By David Cutler – a professor of economics at Harvard University
Published: November 8 on the Washington Post
The anger over the botched rollout of the Affordable Care Act’s federal health insurance exchange — and over the conflicting explanations about whether people can keep their coverage — has been bipartisan and well-deserved. The administration needs to make personnel and management changes to get enrollment back on track. But the focus on insurance coverage obscures other parts of the ACA that are working well, even better than expected. It is increasingly clear that the cost curve is bending, and the ACA is a significant part of the reason.
The law has two overarching goals: Cover almost everyone, and slow the growth of medical care costs. The goals are equally important. Too little coverage, and premiums in the exchanges will be unaffordable; too rapid a cost increase, and the federal government will not be able to afford the subsidies.
Even as coverage efforts are sputtering, success on the cost front is becoming more noticeable. Since 2010, the average rate of health-care cost increases has been less than half the average in the prior 40 years. The first wave of the cost slowdown emerged just after the recession and was attributed to the economic hangover. Three years later, the economy is growing, and costs show no sign of rising. Something deeper is at work.
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From the Boston Globe: Heart-clogging trans fats have been slowly disappearing from grocery aisles and restaurant menus in the last decade. Now, the Food and Drug Administration is finishing the job.
The FDA planned to announce Thursday it will require the food industry to gradually phase out all trans fats, saying they are a threat to people’s health. Commissioner Margaret Hamburg said the move could prevent 20,000 heart attacks and 7,000 deaths each year.
Hamburg said that while the amount of trans fats in the country’s diet has declined dramatically in the last decade, they ‘‘remain an area of significant public health concern.’’ The trans fats have long been criticized by nutritionists, and New York and other local governments have banned them.
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Nearly a quarter of a million struggling Mainers, including more than 100,000 children, who receive Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as food stamps) benefits, will suffer a substantial reduction in their food assistance. A modest boost in SNAP benefits, included in the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) to strengthen the economy and ease hardship, ends today. A Maine family of three will lose $29, equivalent to 16 meals, each month.
“This small increase in SNAP benefits has provided an important stepping stone for almost a quarter of a million struggling families in Maine during the deep economic recession and long recovery, empowering them to keep food on the table as they seek employment, send their children off to school, and get themselves back on their feet,” stated Donna Yellen of Preble Street, who leads Maine’s Hunger Initiative.
In addition to helping to feed hungry families, SNAP is one of the fastest, most effective ways to stimulate a weak economy. Every $1 increase in SNAP benefits generates about $1.70 in economic activity. Because of this cut, Maine businesses will lose $44 million in spending from November 2013 through September 2014.
“This is a serious loss for families whose benefits, after this cut, will average less than $1.40 per person per meal,” said Maine Center for Economic Policy analyst Jody Harris. “There is even worse news in the pipeline. The U.S. House of Representatives recently passed an additional $40 billion in SNAP cuts, which, if enacted, would come on top of the cuts taking effect today.”
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Tags: food stamp cuts in Maine
-Legislative leadership has approved a bill sponsored by Senator Colleen Lachowicz to fix the ongoing problems with the state’s new contracting system providing rides to MaineCare patients.
“These are some of our most vulnerable and most ill neighbors, and they are missing their doctor’s appointments,” said Senator Lachowicz. “Everyone should have access to health care when they need it, yet they are missing critical medical appointments because the brokers hired to provide rides cannot get their act together. That’s unacceptable.”
To address federal concerns about accountability and transparency, in August, the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) switched from a transportation program operated by local nonprofits to a regional system run by ride brokers.
Since the change, clients have had difficulty booking rides; in one notable case, a caller was placed on hold for 21 hours. Patients have missed appointments because rides have been delayed, or failed to show up completely. In one case, a woman’s three-year-old son was taken to the wrong house after school. According to Stefanie Nadeau, the Director of MaineCare services for DHHS, 58 percent of callers hang up in frustration before reaching a live person.
Senator Lachowicz’s bill, LR 2453 An Act To Replace Current MaineCare-funded Nonemergency Transportation Services with a More Reliable and Efficient System of Transportation Services To Better Meet the Needs of the Elderly and Other MaineCare-eligible Clients, will create a more reliable and efficient system based on the Vermont model. Vermont uses a locally controlled system that has been approved by the federal government.
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Tags: MaineCare transportation
The effort to expand health care for tens of thousands of low income Mainers and veterans will continue in January. Legislative leaders voted to allow two emergency measures to accept federal health care dollars to move forward. The leaders must approve any new bills for the short second session of the legislature, which is typically reserved for emergency or time-sensitive measures.
“With thousands of Mainers set to lose health care in January, we must act quickly to expand health care,” said Speaker of the House Mark Eves. “The state will lose out on an additional $700,000 per day starting in January if we don’t accept these funds. Life-saving health care and critical dollars are on the line.”
Under the Affordable Care Act, the federal government has pledged to pay 100 percent of the costs of health care for tens of thousands of Mainers for three years. Then the state would only have to pay 10 percent of the costs to continue ACA services and funding.
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Tags: Need the ACA in Maine
At a private event earlier this month, Governor Paul LePage told conservative supporters of the Informed Women’s Network that he made a “bet to resign” with Democratic leaders in the Legislature over the cost of Medicaid expansion in Maine. Non-partisan studies have shown that Maine could save hundreds of lives and millions of dollars by accepting federal health care dollars to expand Medicaid.
An audio recording from the event LePage said, “I told the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House I believe that expanding Medicare, expanding Obamacare, was going to increase the cost to the State of Maine, and I made a deal with them. I told them – if it doesn’t and you prove to me it’s going to lower the cost in health care, I’ll resign and I won’t run again, but if it raises the cost of health care by one dollar, you’ll both resign,” said LePage. “Because that’s honesty. That’s what it takes. You’ve gotta put it on the table and they don’t want to. Because it’s $150 million a year, plus that’s not even counting the 35,000. It’s another about 8 million just in new personnel. It’s crazy, it’s so out of control it’s unbelievable. So don’t let ‘em fool you on healthcare.”
Speaker Mark Eves of North Berwick, who has championed the fight to accept federal health care dollars to expand coverage for tens of thousands of Mainers, including nearly 3,000 veterans challenged LePage’s statement.
“The Governor never made that wager. It’s simply not true,” said Eves. “We certainly would never make a bet or a joke over life-saving health care for the people of our state. Every non-partisan study has shown that Maine will save money from expanding health care for working families in our state, but most importantly it will mean more families will have access to a family doctor.”
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