AUGUSTA – We would like to thank Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins for their recent support of the extension of emergency funding for the Federal Medical Assistance Percentage (FMAP), the federal funds states receive to pay for Medicaid, known in Maine as MaineCare.

In joining Reps. Michael Michaud and Chellie Pingree to support this funding, our entire congressional delegation rose above politics and demonstrated its strong commitment to health care and to the people of Maine.

As part of the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), the federal government increased its match rate for state Medicaid programs to help states during the economic downturn.

Under ARRA, Maine’s match rate rose from 64 percent to nearly 75 percent, equaling close to $100 million in allocated federal funds toward Maine’s state budget for fiscal year 2011.

As a result of this week’s Senate vote, a significant portion of that money — approximately $77 million — will come to Maine, leaving us with a shortfall of about $23 million.

Just this past week, we celebrated the 45th anniversary of the law creating Medicaid and Medicare and are holding birthday parties around the state to highlight these programs and their importance in providing health care to our state’s most vulnerable populations.

We were thrilled to have representatives from both senators’ staff attend and show their support.

Gov. Baldacci also acknowledged the anniversary by issuing a proclamation celebrating July 30 as “Medicare and Medicaid Recognition Day” and outlining the key role these programs have played in our state.

As we celebrate the anniversary of this landmark legislation and recognize the significant impact these programs have on our society — keeping seniors healthy, making sure children and families have access to health care, and stimulating our economy with jobs in the health care sector — we couldn’t be more grateful for our senators’ support and leadership.

MaineCare has played a critical role in securing health coverage for people with low income. A vital safety net, Maine-Care covers children, parents, pregnant women, people with disabilities, and the elderly, helping them to lead healthier lives and enjoy greater economic security.

Many seniors rely on Maine-Care to help them with their long-term care needs. For low-income elderly who need more assistance with their Medicare costs, MaineCare helps bridge the gap to provide their care.

MaineCare is largely responsible for Maine’s success in being 6th lowest in the nation for the number of uninsured — only 9.6 percent of our population is uninsured compared to 15.4 percent nationally.

MaineCare picks up coverage when people in Maine lose access to employer-based health care coverage. As our state has lost manufacturing jobs with good benefits and the rising costs of health care has forced many employers to drop coverage, MaineCare has helped fill that gap.

The services that MaineCare beneficiaries receive, including preventive care and chronic disease management, can help make them healthier and more productive, while also reducing their need for more expensive, acute health services over the long term.

We all benefit from covering the uninsured. When the uninsured forego regular medical care and end up in emergency rooms, hospitals pass on the cost to the rest of us through higher premiums charged by private insurance companies.

providing health coverage for thousands of people who would otherwise be uninsured, MaineCare is helping to reduce the cost for all of us.

Our senators’ votes showed tremendous courage. This funding is critically important to Mainers who are struggling to make ends meet.

As they have in the past, our senators supported FMAP funding even when times were tough, helping to keep Maine moving forward.

Their votes will help the state to keep jobs and maintain services to lower income families, and lighten the financial burden on an already strapped state government.

We applaud their leadership and look forward to working with them in the future to make quality, affordable health care available to every person in Maine.