Wednesday, March 12, 2014
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LePage's willingness to consider Medicaid expansion now is noteworthy because of the deep opposition he expressed just a few months ago.
In a letter to the Obama administration in November, LePage described the Affordable Care Act as a steppingstone to a single-payer system. "Maine will not be complicit in the degradation of our nation's premier health care system," he wrote.
Bennett insisted Monday that the governor's position on expansion is unchanged and that negotiations with the federal government about participating in the program are unrelated to the hospital association's position.
The Democrats introduced their plan to pay hospitals during a news conference just 30 minutes before a full day of public hearings on LePage's plan to use the next liquor contract and a revenue bond to repay the state's share of the hospital debt.
Unlike the governor's plan, the Democratic proposal includes no borrowing. Instead, it would use an upfront payment from the chosen liquor contractor to pay the hospitals by September.
Democratic leaders touted the proposal because it would pay the hospitals by a specific date.
They said the timetable for LePage's plan is uncertain, given its use of a revenue bond and concerns that the plan, as written, may violate a provision in the state Constitution.
The Democratic plan will be accompanied by several measures to address the high cost of health care, including billing transparency and cost containment.
"It's important to remember that this issue is not just about debt, it's also about high health-care costs," said Senate President Justin Alfond. "Any plan to pay off debt to the hospitals should also address the cost drivers and reforming our system to prevent this debt from building up again."
Austin, the lead lobbyist for the Maine Hospital Association, said the debt payment plan should be separate from any other reform efforts.
"The debt was accrued when we provided services at terms that were in law at the time," he said. "We shouldn't have to go back and bargain for that, meaning we shouldn't have to agree to support or oppose anything else."
Nonetheless, Austin said the hospital association "appreciated that (Democrats) are seeking earnestly to pay us back as the governor has been for the past several months."
Steve Mistler can be contacted at 620-7016 or at:
On Twitter: @stevemistler