March 7, 2012

Another View: Cutting MaineCare is necessary to preserve program for neediest

MaineCare is a safety net for the poor, not a health insurance program for everyone.

By Jonathan McKane of Newcastle, a state representative


State Rep. Jonathan McKane, R-Newcastle, is a member of the Insurance and Financial Services Committee.

Rep. Mark Eves is right about one thing – there is another ideological battle brewing in Augusta. But there is little else in his Feb. 27 column on MaineCare, "A prescription for change," that illustrates an understanding of the problem or the solutions.

Rep. Eves considers cutting enrollment in the program "morally wrong" and suggests "better cost management" to address budget overruns. Cost management is important – but that alone won't fix the problem.

In 2004, the number of MaineCare enrollees was around 260,000 – a huge number for this poor state to support even then. To address the predicted budget crisis the following year and in subsequent years, the controlling Democrats used every budgetary trick in the book:

They sold the state liquor business. They borrowed from the highway fund. They borrowed from the next fiscal year. They cut school funding. They increased taxes and fees. They shortchanged our hospitals. They even tried to borrow money through bonding to fund current expenses.

One-time federal "stimulus" dollars were also used to fill the gap instead of going into jobs and infrastructure.

We now find ourselves in 2012 with 360,000 MaineCare enrollees and a Health and Human Services budget that is responsible for nearly half of all state spending other than transportation. Clearly, this kind of uncontrolled welfare spending cannot continue.

To say that this current DHHS budget problem arose because of "poor planning decisions" by the current Republican administration is to politicize a critical situation and to turn a blind eye to this state's recent history.

MaineCare is a vital program for the poor – not a health insurance program for everyone. It is not "morally wrong" to get MaineCare spending under control. Conversely, it must be done – and for all the right reasons.


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