AUGUSTA — It appears that in at least one string of media outlets in Maine, political preference defines how one looks at the presentation of the facts. The Portland Press Herald’s recent editorial “Our View: Defunding study lets LePage off the hook” (Feb. 14) offers just one more example of media bias.

While the Press Herald describes the Alexander Group’s detailed and thorough report as “shoddy,” it fails to produce any facts in support of this argument. In truth, the coverage of this story could be used a perfect illustration of the word “shoddy.”

The paper scoured the nation to find an allegedly “independent” health care expert to pick apart the Alexander Group’s report in order to support its pro-Medicaid expansion stance.

The Press Herald and some members of the Legislature have presented the expert’s allegation of a $575 million “accounting error” in the Alexander Group’s report as an absolute fact, which is preposterous. The alleged “expert” made an assumption, which was misguided and off-target and concluded that the Alexander Group must have assumed a 60 percent federal match rate, which could overstate state costs by as much as $575 million.

As you may know, MaineCare programs receive federal funding from what is known as the Federal Medical Assistance Percentage. The basic federal match contribution is 61.55 percent, but in some programs, like the Children’s Health Insurance Program, the match is higher. More importantly for this discussion, other programs that align with MaineCare do not receive the Federal Medical Assistance Percentage, though they may receive some level of federal support.

In order to paint the most accurate picture of the fiscal impact of expanding Medicaid in Maine, the Alexander Group was asked to make sure that the total budget in the financial model it used matched the total MaineCare budget, including MaineCare services and administration, and that it was reflective of the programs that align with MaineCare and are not eligible for the Federal Medical Assistance Percentage.

Why? Because including all services in the analysis would produce a more accurate portrayal of state expenditures across the entire program.

Like it or not, the Alexander Group’s data and its analysis are valid, plain and simple. They affirm our concerns about expanding the MaineCare program. Adding 100,000 able-bodied individuals to this program will have devastating and far-reaching financial consequences for our state, costing $800 million over the next 10 years.

More importantly, expanding MaineCare to able-bodied individuals, many of whom would be eligible for federal subsidies and would pay very affordable premiums, some as low as $4 a week, will further move us away from meeting our core mission to serve the most vulnerable, including the elderly and people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

The Legislature would overstep its authority and take control of an executive branch function if it were to defund this contract for nothing more than partisan politics. If this bill continues, the new norm in Augusta would be introducing legislation for any work that does not align with a political party’s viewpoint.

The Alexander Group’s feasibility study did not cost the state $925,000; that is the cost of the entire contract. It cost the state $54,000 to analyze the impact of expansion of a program with a $2.5 billion annual budget.

The Alexander Group’s expertise in creating more flexibility in Maine’s Medicaid program, as well as its analysis of the Department of Health and Human Services public assistance programs, will be invaluable as we look to best utilize our limited resources to meet the needs of our most vulnerable.

It is unfortunate that the media and partisan lawmakers have chosen to pick apart the methodology used by the Alexander Group on one hand and present one analyst’s opinion and assumption as a statement of fact. This is “shoddy” work, and the public must demand more from both its elected officials and the media.

We do not live in a world of unlimited resources, and Maine- Care cannot be all things to all people. While these are difficult decisions, our choice is clear. There is no possible way that we can add 100,000 able-bodied individuals to a program that cannot currently meet its core mission.

We must return the MaineCare program to its original intent of caring for Maine’s most vulnerable, like the elderly and intellectually disabled, who now languish on waiting lists for far too long.

— Special to the Press Herald