MaineCare contains costs and produces healthy outcomes

— current spending below 2006

BY RAMONA DU HOUX

February 28th, 2011 

Anthony Marple oversaw Maine’s Medicaid program for four years. He was fired in January, one day after he appeared before the Legislature’s Appropriations Committee. All he did was tell the committee the truth about MaineCare’s expenditures.

Marple’s presentation showed that the amount of money Maine spent from the General Fund on Medicaid has been stable or has declined each year since 2006, despite a jump in enrollment because of the recession.

MaineCare provides free medical and dental care to low-income residents, serving over 300,000 Maine residents. Maine maximizes the benefit it gets to run MaineCare from the federal government’s Medicaid reimbursements.

• MaineCare’s annual budget is about $2.6 billion.
• Two-thirds, approximately $1.716 billion, comes from the federal government.

Maine has done a better job containing costs than most states, as was clearly exhibited in Marple’s presentation because of cost saving efforts at the Department of Health and Human Services.

The state’s current Medicaid spending is below 2006 levels, due to a combination of cost-containment efforts and increased federal stimulus assistance.

Gov. John Baldacci created DHHS by merging the Department of Human Services and the Department of Behavioral and Developmental Services, which eliminated jobs where the work was being duplicated, and saved the state millions streamlining services.

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Three years ago realizing MaineCare costs could be reduced further the Baldacci administration, with bipartisan support in the Legislature, laid the groundwork for reform. Starting in 2012, MaineCare recipients would be enrolled in private managed-care networks. The state would pay the contractors set fees, giving them an incentive to save money by keeping patients healthy and reducing hospitalization costs. These reforms have been put on hold by the LePage administration.

The MaineCare program has been successful in improving the heath of Maine’s citizens, utilizing the benefits of Medicaid.