More Myths And Facts On Maine Medicaid Expansion
MYTH: Republicans say even paying only 10 percent of the expansion will cost taxpayers $400 million in the seven years after the reductions from 100 percent federal funding.
FACT: Maine is projected to save $690 million in the next 10 years if it accepts the federal dollars, according to the nonpartisan Kaiser Foundation and the conservative Heritage Foundation. Maine is also one of 10 states that will see Medicaid expenditures go down over the next 10 years. The bill to accept federal funds, LD 1066, is structured so that these savings will be tracked and set aside in a fund to offset any general fund cost once the small state match kicks in after three years.
MYTH: Larger and larger portions of the state’s budget is being consumed by MaineCare. MaineCare alone has grown by $100 million a year, averaged over the decade.
FACT: Medicaid accounts for 22 percent of the state dollars in the General Fund Budget, according to the non-partisan Office of Fiscal and Program Review. Commissioner Mary Mayhew has said repeatedly in testimony to Legislative committees this year that Maine’s growth in Medicaid has been among the lowest in the country and that our overall state and federal Medicaid spending has been flat. What’s on the rise is the cost of health care. The best way to address costs is to accept federal funds and managing the way that care is delivered. The Department of Health and Human Services has recently received a $31 million federal grant that it says will save $470 million based on current Medicaid enrollment. Those savings will be even greater if we increase the base of enrollees.
MYTH: Republicans have said before expanding MaineCare for childless adults the state needs to take care of a backlogged waiting list of about 3,100 people that includes some elderly and disabled individuals.
FACT: This argument is a red herring. If Maine votes down accepting these federal funds it won’t change the fact that there are still wait lists for waiver services. It is a separate issue. Those individuals are already receiving MaineCare to cover basic needs while they wait for services to be available under the waiver. Whether or not we accept these funds will have no impact, positive or negative, on the waitlists.
MYTH: We don’t need to expand Medicaid because people can purchase health insurance through the federal “exchange.”
FACT: Low income Mainers earning approximately $16,000 a year will not be able to afford health insurance through the exchange and won’t qualify for subsidies. According to a report in the New York Times, the refusal by about half the states to expand Medicaid will leave millions of poor people ineligible for government-subsidized health insurance under President Obama’s health care law even as many others with higher incomes receive federal subsidies to buy insurance.
MYTH: Hospital layoffs, including those announced by Parkview, are caused by welfare expansion
FACT: Accepting federal health care dollars would strengthen and stabilize Maine hospitals and health care jobs. Not only will these health care dollars lower charity care by $163 million dollars a year, increase insured patient volumes, and will also create 3,100 jobs — half in the health care sector. That’s why Maine hospitals have backed accepting federal funds and why Democrats paired repaying Maine’s hospital debt with accepting federal funds. Maine’s hospital debt is a symptom of our high health care costs. We can’t just treat the symptom; we have to treat the problem. According to the Maine Hospital Association, both bad debt and charity care, was about $450 million last year, up $32 million from the year before. Hospitals pass these charity care costs to consumers, including the state and individuals and businesses with private insurance.
MYTH: Gov. LePage says Medicaid Expansion is welfare
FACT: Medicaid is health care for low-income individuals, many of whom are working but cannot afford health insurance coverage or don’t have the option from their employer. Seventy percent of Medicaid enrollees are either children, seniors or individuals with disabilities. MaineCare payments go to hospitals and health care providers to provide services not directly to eligible individuals.
MYTH: Governor LePage needs time to negotiate a better deal with the federal government
FACT: The federal government has offered Maine a bargain. It has already pledged to pay 100 percent of the costs of health care for three years. Over time, that share will decline until it reaches 90 percent in 2020 and future years. In Maine, tens of thousands of adults without children would gain Medicaid coverage if the state opts to expand, according to the Legislature’s nonpartisan Office of Fiscal and Program Review. If the state chooses not to expand, about 25,000 childless adults and parents would lose their Medicaid coverage on Jan. 1, 2014.
MYTH: Maine’s hospital debt has nothing to do with Medicaid expansion
FACT: Maine’s hospital debt is a symptom of our high health care costs. We can’t just treat the symptom; we have to treat the problem. We can lower those costs by accepting federal health care dollars to cover nearly 70,000 Maine people. By doing so we would significantly reduce hospital charity care cost for the uninsured. According to the Maine Hospital Association, both bad debt and charity care, was about $450 million last year, up $32 million from the year before. Hospitals pass these charity care costs to consumers, including the state and individuals and businesses with private insurance.
MYTH: Medicaid expansion would be a government handout for lazy able-bodied adults
FACT: The federal health care dollars would be used toward health care for those who earned up to 138 percent of the poverty rate. That includes individuals who are working in low-paying jobs with no health insurance, earning $15,856 or a family of three earning up to $26,951. According to the Anthem Blue Cross insurance chart on the state’s website, an individual policy with a $2,000 deductible for a 55-year-old would be about $6,500 per year. That policy features a $50 co-pay for a regular office visit.