Congressman Michaud and US government confirm Maine will receive 100 percent ACA healthcare funding

LePage still refuses to help save Mainers who need ACA healthcare

BY RAMONA DU HOUX

May 30th, 2013 

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Speaker of the House, Mark Eves, speaks about a bill that accepts Affordable Health Care funds to insure close to 70,000 Mainers and, with profits from liqour sales, pays Maine’s Hospitals debt.

LePage vetoed the measure, that had passed in the House and Senate, using a false excuse that the ACA wont be funded 100 percent. Before the ACA was signed into law Congressman Mike Michaud negotiated changes to the bill in congress that guaranteed Maine would not be penalized as LePage suggested. photo by Morgan Rogers.

“We don’t need to hard lines drawn in the sand. We simply shouldn’t wait to do what’s right for our state, both morally and fiscally. We can’t wait. People’s lives are on the line,” said Senate President Justin Alfond just before Governor Paul LePage vetoed the plan to renegotiate Maine’s liquor contract, and accept federal funds to provide health insurance for nearly 70,000 low-income Mainers.

All 15 Senate Republicans stood with LePage’s and sustained his veto of LD-1546, “An Act To Strengthen Maine’s Hospitals, Increase Access to Health Care and Provide for a New Spirits Contract”. To override a veto a 2/3rd’s majority vote in both chambers was needed.

“In a divided government, you cannot demand all or nothing,” said Speaker of the House Mark Eves of North Berwick. “Governor Paul LePage had an opportunity to prove to Maine people that he could compromise. He failed. He had an opportunity to put politics aside. He failed. Governor LePage has failed to pay his bills. He failed to provide health care to people whose lives are on the line.”

LD 1546, was previously passed by both the Senate and House, and makes the final payment of $485 million in state and federal dollars to Maine hospitals. Under the acceptance of federal health care dollars, the hospitals will also receive an additional $163 million a year in federal dollars for treating newly insured Maine residents.

With acceptance of the Affordable Care Act the federal government has agreed to pay 100 percent of the cost for covering all newly eligible people for the first three years, and then gradually lowering its payment to no less than 90 percent of the cost by 2020.

“Paying the hospitals is Governor LePage’s top priority and federally-funded health care expansion is a life or death issue for Maine people. Governor LePage’s veto is shortsighted and, frankly, ridiculous,” said Maine People’s Alliance Jesse Graham.

This measure would have made the final payment to Maine hospitals totaling $485 million in state and federal dollars. Maine hospitals would also have received an additional $163 million a year in federal dollars for treating newly insured Maine residents and would have saved money on their charity care costs.

According to the Maine Hospital Association, both bad debt and charity care cost $450 million last year, an increase of $32 million from the previous year.

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LePage's ad, before it was moved inside the governor's office, misrepresenting what Democrats are doing to repay the hospital debt. photo by Morgan Rogers

“The governor got the liquor contract he wanted, he got the hospitals paid back, and he still wouldn’t sign the bill,” said Assistant Senate Majority Leader Troy Jackson. “He has a TV that says ‘what’s the hold up?’ Today, the governor is the hold up.”

The TV sparked controversy, as it is an ad misrepresenting Democratic efforts to repay the hospital debt. It illegally stood outside of the governor’s office and has been pulled inside. LePage said he would “move out” of the capitol in July because he wasn’t allowed to have his TV outside his office. All this happened when lives of thousands of Mainer’s were at stake.

LePage has claimed that the ACA won’t pay 100 percent of healthcare costs. But a letter from tCenters for Medicare & Medicaid Services in Washington, D.C. confirms that Maine will receive a 100 percent match for the first three years if we choose to accept federal health dollars to cover more Maine families under the Affordable Care Act. After the first three years, Maine will receive an average match of 94.2 percent in the years following.

“This letter is further confirmation that Maine should take the deal,” said Speaker Eves of North Berwick. “We have a definitive offer. This is the best deal. There is no excuse to delay accepting these federal health care dollars to cover the cost of health care for tens of thousands of Maine people.”

There is no logical, tangible reason for LePage’s refusal to accept ACA funds.

The letter sent to the LePage administration dated May 24 from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services again confirmed that Maine would receive full funding from the federal government for 55,000 childless adults for three years if it expands its Medicaid program to this population. Nearly 10,500 Mainers in this population will lose coverage in January if the state does not accept federal funds.

“We have received assurance after assurance from the feds. You can’t get much better than 100 percent. It is misleading for the LePage administration to say we can get a better deal. No better deal exists. We should take the feds’ offer and take it now,” said Alfond.

The letter is the latest in a series of letters confirming this information to the administration. Since the state does not cover audiology services for childless adults, the state will qualify for the federal funds at 100 percent. It offers an “unprecedented match set by law” that ensures significant savings for the state over a ten-year period and can not be changed by “regulation or waiver.”

The 100 percent match rate does not apply to Maine parents who are already covered in the state budget with a federal match rate of 62 percent. These parents are covered with no additional costs in the state budget. They are not included in the expansion.

In a press release today LePage grossly misrepresented the contents of this letter.

“I’m disappointed that the federal government will penalize Maine for our previous generosity,” said LePage. “Maine will not get full funding for able-bodied parents, while other states receive 100 percent. It’s also disappointing that the feds won’t work with us to provide the additional years of funding I requested. Despite our generosity in expanding welfare over the last decade, we are being offered less than what other states are getting.”

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Speaking at the Capitol on accepting ACA funding and the Democratic healthcare plan Sen. President Justin Alfond said, We simply shouldn’t wait to do what’s right for our state, both morally and fiscally. We can’t wait. People’s lives are on the line. photo by Morgan Rogers

Before the ACA was signed into law Congressman Mike Michaud negotiated changes to the bill in congress that guaranteed Maine would not be penalized as LePage suggested. In fact Maine is receiving more than other states.

“That’s why didn’t initially sign onboard with the ACA,” said Michaud in a recent interview with Maine Insights.

The Health and Human Services is expected to vote today on a bill, LD 1066, to accept the federal health care dollars to cover more Mainers.

Maine is projected to save $690 million in the next 10 years if it accepts the federal dollars, according to the nonpartisan Kaiser Foundation.

“There are thousands of people struggling without access to health care. They go to work everyday, but they don’t earn enough money to afford health insurance. They are one accident or illness away from ruin. It doesn’t have to be this way,” said Sara Gagné-Holmes, executive director of Maine Equal Justice Partners, one of the lead organizations in the Cover Maine Now! Coalition.

LD-1546 would have been of benefit to more than 16,300 Mainers age 50-64 who currently have no health benefits and are struggling financially.

John Hennessy, AARP Maine Director of Advocacy said, “Having access to health care coverage is especially important for older adults who are not yet eligible for Medicare. It would be short-sighted for the State to refuse federal dollars through the Affordable Care Act for these citizens of Maine.”

Hilary Schneider, Maine government relations and advocacy director for the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network said, “Cancer patients should not have to worry about how to pay their medical bills when they are fighting for their lives. Access to health care coverage is one of the most effective ways to prevent and detect cancer early, treat cancer effectively and improve the quality of life of patients enduring cancer treatment.”