Friday, March 7, 2014
1. Is Maine spending too much on its social safety net?
No. While I believe we must always look to see if we are spending our funds efficiently, in Maine we take care of each other. We are in a difficult budget situation and we all have to make sacrifices, but in a recession people need services more than ever.
We spend too much on safety net bureaucracy and that keeps us from getting enough resources to Maine’s most vulnerable. ‘Envision Maine’ pointed out that Maine’s welfare payroll increased by 46 percent since 2002 while the national average went down 13 percent.
I think we are a bit too generous with our welfare programs, and the facts seem to bear this out. The goal of our social service agencies should be to get folks off welfare and end their dependency, but there are many factors to consider. If we just change the mindset in Augusta so people understand that services should provide a lifeline, not a lifestyle, we’ll reduce the costs of our social services.
Yes. We need to help the distressed and the truly disadvantaged with a focus on the very young, the disabled and the elderly, but for most Mainers the best welfare program is a good- paying job. Employing more people for more hours at higher-paying jobs will lift more people over the poverty line in Maine and reduce our spending on the social safety net. We also appear to be lagging well behind other New England states in transitioning people from welfare to work.
Yes, anytime we have high unemployment and people dependent on the state we need to reduce these numbers.
2. What, if any, state health care mandates do you think Maine should eliminate? Why or why not?
When people talk about mandates they are actually talking about the consumer protections that require coverage for things like mammograms, autism treatment, and prostate screenings. These are vital to prevention and keeping people healthy. Maine has been a leader in the health care reform movement and I will continue that progress by shifting us toward a more preventative based system that will save money in the long run.
Consumers should have individual choices when it comes to health insurance. Everyone is different, but our one-size-fits-all approach forces people to pay for coverage they may not need. The net result is fewer private insurance customers, driving up the costs for those who cannot go without insurance and more cost shifting to MaineCare.
The most important one to eliminate is the bar on buying health insurance across state lines. There has to be a way to put in place a system that allows consumers to buy health insurance in the competitive marketplace. If you own a flower shop, for instance, you can be a part of a large association of florists nationwide that provides low-cost health insurance for its members. But that’s not permitted under Maine law. Breaking down this barrier will allow more competition and help bring down the cost of health insurance.
I think all health care mandates should be carefully considered before they are adopted, they should be reviewed for compliance with the new federal health care reform law and for comparison with other states. All mandates should be reviewed periodically. Sixty percent of our health care costs are for chronic preventable illnesses. Our focus should not necessarily be on mandates, but keeping people healthy and paying for performance outcomes.
(Continued on page 2)