AUGUSTA —  Top Democrats have strongly urged Republicans to join them in supporting a compromise bill to accept federal health care dollars as a new report from the non-partisan Rand Corporation said states that refuse the funds risked losing billions.

 “This non-partisan study sounds the alarm” said Speaker of the House Mark Eves of North Berwick. “Significant dollars are stake and tens of thousands of lives are on the line. We can’t afford not to accept these funds.”

 The study published in the Health Affairs periodical predicts states that don’t expand Medicaid will face higher spending on programs that provide money to hospitals for treating uninsured people because federal spending will decline in this area.

 “The studies have been done, the reports are clear,  Expanding health care for Maine people is the right thing to do for our budget and our people,” said Senate President Justin Alfond of Portland.

 The Rand Study analyzed the impact of 14 states not expanding, including Maine. It concluded that in terms of coverage, cost, and federal payments, states would do best to expand Medicaid. The study found in those states refusing federal dollars 3.6 million fewer people would be insured, federal transfer payments to those states could fall by $8.4 billion, and state spending on uncompensated care could increase by $1 billion in 2016, compared to what would be expected if all states participated in the expansion.

 According to an article on the study in the Huffington Post, Rand Corp. experts Carter Price and Christine Eibner of the Rand Corp. wrote, “State policymakers should be aware that if they do not expand Medicaid, fewer people will have health insurance, and state and local governments will have to bear higher costs for uncompensated care. We estimated states’ costs for expansion to be less than the reduction in their costs for uncompensated care.”

 The Maine House on Monday passed LD 1066, a compromise measure to accept federal health care dollars to cover nearly 70,000 Maine people.  

 Democrats modified the original measure to include an opt-out provision if the federal government dropped below its unprecedented match rate. Five Republicans joined Democrats to move the bill forward.

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