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  • Maine health care expansion bill under ACA advances out of committee

    LD 854 would provide coverage to 70,000 Mainers, save the state budget $26.7 million

     By Ramona du Houx

    A proposed bill to expand health care coverage to 70,000 Mainers is advancing in the Legislature with support from the Health and Human Services Committee. The committee recommended the bill’s passage with a vote of 7-5 on May 28, 2015.

    “We have the chance to take advantage of an incredible opportunity that would provide life-changing health care to tens of thousands of Mainers,” Rep. Linda Sanborn, D-Gorham, the bill’s sponsor and a retired family physician. “The benefits of expansion remain just as pertinent, just as powerful, just as justified today – and some would say even more so. It’s a decision that makes sense for our economy, for job creation, for overall health care cost control and for Mainers who could have the security of health care coverage.”

    Under the Affordable Care Act, Maine has the opportunity to accept federal funds to cover 100 percent of the costs of expanding coverage through Medicaid, called MaineCare here, to adults with incomes under 138 percent of the poverty level.

    A new report released last month shows Maine could see $26.7 million in budget savings in 2016 if the state accepts federal funds. The findings of the Maine Health Access Foundation report are based on the experiences of eight states that expanded Medicaid coverage in early 2014.

    “Twenty-nine other states have recognized these benefits and have accepted the federal funds to expand coverage for low-income people,” continued Sanborn. “Maine is the only Northeastern state to have refused to help the working poor obtain coverage. That’s unacceptable.”

    The bill received widespread support from medical professionals, uninsured Mainers and representatives of health care organizations at the public hearing before the committee last month.

    In the previous Legislature, Gov. Paul LePage vetoed five different measures to increase access to health care for Maine citizens, including a bipartisan plan sponsored by two Senate Republicans.   

    Other states, with extreme Republican governors have accepted the funding as it's economically a good idea bringing in funds to the states. Every day Maine deneys the funding the state losses money.

    In fact, refusing to accept federal funds, Maine is missing out on as many as 4,400 jobs and over half a billion dollars in annual economic activity, according to the Maine Center for Economic Policy. Because the state has not accepted the federal government’s offer, nearly 25,000 Mainers, including nearly 15,000 working parents, could not gain access to health care last year.

    The bill will now face further votes in the House and Senate.