With the Legislature’s budget-reviewing committee working this week to review proposed changes in Maine’s Medicaid program, also known as MaineCare, Governor Paul LePage has posted more information about his plan onto the Office of the Governor website. See www.maine.gov/governor/lepage.
In an effort to better inform Maine people, the website offers additional information about the Department of Health and Human Services supplemental budget, which includes facts and frequently asked questions about the Governor’s plan to reform Medicaid.
In a recent Democratic radio address, Sen. Seth Goodall (D-Richmond) accused the Governor of creating the plan for political gain—an accusation that Governor LePage says has no merit.
The Governor answers the question, “Is this politically motivated?” on the website. It reads: ”On April 1, 2012, the Department of Health and Human Services will run out of money to pay for Medicaid benefits. There are no politics involved with this fact. If this problem is not addressed now, it will continue to be an issue because Maine no longer can rely on federal stimulus funds to pay for Medicaid or refuse to pay its hospital bills, which was a devastating tactic employed by the last administration.
Governor LePage tried to implement structural change to the Medicaid plan last session; however, those proposals, which included the repeal of childless adults and individuals 19- and 20-years-old within the Medicaid program, were not accepted.
At that time, the Governor and DHHS officials warned legislators of the fiscal problems with the program, yet they failed to act. “Now the money trail has added up and the deficit is significantly higher,” said the Governor. “We would not be facing nearly as large of a hole to fill if this problem was addressed earlier. Instead of a $220 million shortfall, we’d be looking at around $90 million.”
Additionally, the Governor addresses on the website other issues, such as across-the-board-cuts and private non-medical institutions (PNMIs), which provide residential and medical services to people who are not at the level of care for a hospital or nursing home but still need continuing care.
The Governor explains that Maine is one of two states offering similar PNMI benefits. However, the federal government has expressed concern over the last several years that PNMI is not a model they endorse.
The federal government has a variety of concerns, including whether room and board is included in treatment rates. Room and board is not considered a medical service and is not eligible for federal matching funds.
“These services are valuable to many Mainers, but the pressure from the federal government cannot be ignored,” said the Governor. “Federal matching funds are no longer an option for PNMI room and board; therefore, the Legislature must take a close look at the program.
The facts are clear: since 2002, Medicaid enrollment has grown by 78 percent. Today, 361,000 Mainers are using the program; that’s 30 percent of Maine’s population. As Medicaid has expanded, spending has risen significantly: in the last 10 years, Medicaid spending has increased by $1 billion, a 45-percent increase.
“We have proposed a plan that saves Medicaid for 290,000 people,” the Governor said.
Assistant Majority Leader Andre Cushing (R-Hampden) applauds the Governor for concentrating on an issue that has been overlooked for years. “Democrats must come to terms with this very real problem,” says Rep. Cushing. “The Governor has made difficult and painful decisions to correct an ongoing structural deficit that has been neglected in the last decade. None of us like this, but we must recognize that if we do not make the structural changes to this program we will continue to have to fill this shortfall every year. It is not going away and using scare tactics on the Maine people isn’t helping us toward a solution.”
“These cuts are not easy decisions because they do involve real people,” the Governor said. “There are going to be difficult days ahead. But these conversations must begin and I encourage Democrats and Republicans to set aside their differences and work toward solutions.”
Governor LePage maintains that across-the-board cuts are not the responsible approach to address the $220 million shortfall. The Governor says across-the-board cuts will result in drastic reductions in education, public safety, economic and community development and many other programs Maine people depend on.
“If broad-based cuts are implemented, all Mainers will be significantly impacted,” stated the Governor. “The facts are clear. Maine cannot afford its Medicaid program as it currently stands. Change must occur through restructuring eligibility, re-designing benefits and adopting payment reform which addresses structural problems and will put Maine’s Medicaid program on a path to financial accountability.”
Public hearings before the Committee on Appropriations and Financial Affairs will continue on Thursday and Friday.