Hospital payment leaves the job only half done: Maine needs to accept ACA

BY RAMONA DU HOUX

September 18th, 2013 

Democratic leaders of the Maine House and Senate on Wednesday said they were pleased the state would be making a final payment on its debt to Maine hospitals, but said the payment leaves the job only half done.

“It is incredibly liberating to make this final payment after more than a decade of repaying this debt to our hospitals,” said Speaker Mark Eves. “Yet, it only scratches the surface of addressing the health care challenges in our state. We must make healthcare more affordable so more Maine families can afford to see a doctor when they are sick.”

The leaders reiterated calls for the state to accept federal health care dollars to cover tens of thousands of Maine people, including nearly 3,000 veterans.
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Accepting federal dollars would help contain future health care costs by reducing hospital charity care and bad debt incurred from treating uninsured patients, which totaled $450 million last year,according to the Maine Hospital Association.

“QUOTE,” said Senate President Justin Alfond of Portland. “QUOTE.”

The final payment to Maine hospitals totals $490 million in combined state and federal dollars. The state payment of $183.5 million will trigger a federal match completing the final payment to Maine’s hospitals.

Over the last decade, Maine hospitals have been paid $3.7 billion in combined state and federal dollars to repay past debt and to maintain services.

Governor John Baldacci inherited 11 years of unpaid hospital debts on his first day in office. In 2009, the Democratic legislature changed the way Maine pays its hospitals from a “settle up at the end of the year system” to a “pay as you go system” to prevent debt from accruing. The system went into effect in 2010 and has stopped accruing debt.