Wednesday, March 12, 2014
For many years, Maine state government has been overspending on our huge Medicaid program, called MaineCare. It was originally created as a health care safety net for our most disabled and elderly, and the working poor. Today, it enrolls roughly 350,000 residents, 27% of our entire population, including able-bodied 19 and 20 year olds.
Unlike in other states, MaineCare provides taxpayer-funded chiropractic, dental, occupational and physical therapy, and podiatry care. Some of our most vulnerable families do not receive badly needed health care because MaineCare dollars are spread so thin among so many citizens, including middle-income households.
In past years, Augusta has “funded” this overspending by not paying hospitals what they are owed for services already provided to Medicaid patients. As a result, state government owes $484 million to Maine’s 39 hospitals.
Franklin Memorial Hospital in Farmington is owed $15 million by the State. As you can see from this Portland Press Herald report below (February 22), the hospital is laying off up to 40 employees, in part, because Augusta hasn’t paid this debt.
“Farmington hospital cutting 35 to 40 posts due to losses
Franklin Memorial Hospital in Farmington will eliminate 35 to 40 positions because of mounting losses, said hospital President and CEO Rebecca Ryder. The cuts will come mostly from nonclinical and other positions in the 850-employee hospital, Ryder said. The hospital has lost about $500,000 a month for the last seven months and operated at a loss in the last financial year for the first time in more than a decade, she said. The financial setbacks are compounded by the $15.4 million owed to the hospital from the state in MaineCare payments, she said. The hospital is the second-largest employer in the county, behind Verso Paper operations in Jay, according to Maine's Department of Labor.”
Our state legislators can help the 30,000 Maine families employed by our 39 hospitals by paying the $484 million owed the hospitals. Our elected officials should then stop the bickering and work together to, finally, right-size our unaffordable MaineCare program. This will save and strengthen the critically important health care safety net for Maine families most in need.Tweet
Bruce Poliquin is the former Maine State Treasurer and a 2012 Republican primary candidate for the United States Senate. He has 35 years of experience owning and managing businesses. Bruce is a proud third-generation Franco-American Mainer and Harvard University graduate. Visit BrucePoliquin.net for his most recent commentary and analysis on media outlets throughout the State about the important issues facing Maine families and their jobs.