AUGUSTA – Maine hospitals will lose $80 million in Medicare reimbursements over 10 years under federal health care reform, a representative of Maine hospitals told a state committee Tuesday.

Katie Fullam Harris spoke for MaineHealth, which represents seven hospitals as members and four hospitals as affiliates.

“We wanted to make sure you recognize those reductions,” she told the Advisory Council on Health Systems Development. “There’s very little fat to cut in Maine.”

A federal judge in Virginia said Monday that the law’s mandate for citizens to buy health insurance or pay fines violates the U.S. Constitution’s commerce clause. Despite that ruling and other pending challenges on the state level, the advisory group is working to issue a report for Maine’s new governor and Legislature.

On Tuesday, representatives of hospitals, insurers, businesses and consumers generally expressed support for the draft report’s recommendations, including having the state, rather than the federal government, control an insurance exchange that will run the program in Maine.

The report also spells out deadlines for the state between now and 2014, as the federal law takes effect. The deadlines are important because of the timing of federal grants.

“We look at this as a road map for the next administration,” said Mitchell Stein, policy director for Consumers for Affordable Health Care.

“We must remember that successful implementation will provide coverage to the vast majority of the 134,000 Mainers who are currently uninsured,” he said.

Dan Demeritt, spokesman for Gov.-elect Paul LePage, said the administration will review the report’s recommendations.

LePage, however, has urged Maine’s incoming attorney general to join other states in a Florida-based challenge to the constitutionality of the law.

LePage “will certainly look at their analysis and recommendations,” Demeritt said. “While he is pleased to see the court decision (Monday) … he understands Maine needs to work with the federal government on this.”

 

MaineToday Media State House Writer Susan Cover can be contacted at 620-7015 or at:

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