March 13, 2013

Letters to the Editor: Medicaid access will ensure better health

The American Lung Association agrees with the Portland Press Herald that Mainers will greatly benefit if Gov. LePage decides to expand Medicaid eligibility (

"Our View: Maine missing out by not expanding Medicaid eligibility,"
click image to enlarge

Expanding MaineCare eligibility and restoring coverage for smoking cessation medications will prevent disease and ultimately save Maine money, a reader says.

2013 File Photo/Gabe Souza

March 3).

Ensuring that all people have access to affordable health care is a key element needed to improve public health and contain health care costs for businesses and families.

Too many uninsured people in Maine suffer from debilitating lung diseases that require ongoing management. Expanding eligibility for MaineCare will help ensure that more people who suffer from asthma and other lung diseases have access to the treatment they need.

When patients receive routine preventive care and medications for their chronic illnesses, they are much less likely to have episodes that require costly emergency room treatment. Expanding coverage is likely to save the state money in the long run.

We know that the lower-income people who would benefit by receiving insurance coverage also have higher-than-average smoking rates. They are currently at greater risk of suffering from lung disease and other tobacco-caused illnesses that are expensive to treat.

We hope that Gov. LePage will choose to expand MaineCare eligibility to reinstate the smoking cessation benefit that was eliminated last year.

When $500,000 was cut from the state budget for smoking cessation medications last year, Maine lost about $1 million in federal matching funds and made it more difficult for low-income smokers to quit.

If Maine says "no" to providing its residents with benefits like the expanded coverage available under the Affordable Care Act and smoking cessation medications through Medicaid, we will lose much more than federal matching funds.

Denying Mainers these benefits means we lose opportunities to prevent disease, better manage existing illnesses, overcome tobacco addiction, reduce avoidable health care costs and greatly improve the quality and length of their lives.

Jeff Seyler

president and CEO, American Lung Association of the Northeast

Augusta

As the executive director of a social service agency in eastern Maine, I am trying to figure out why anyone would be opposed to accepting federal dollars for Medicaid that have already been set aside for Maine under the Affordable Care Act.

Each week I meet more folks who want help but aren't able to get it because they do not qualify for Medicaid.

Agencies cannot depend on private funding anymore and must depend on insurance companies to pay for services to the needy.

Veterans are returning from combat and can't work and need care; families have been decimated by unemployment and poverty, which often cause mental health and/or substance abuse.

Those who seek help for social services in Maine face huge difficulties: Single men do not qualify for Medicaid unless they are the primary caregiver to children, and only women with children are covered.

Most private insurance plans have enormous premiums and deductibles, so that even those who have insurance are paying more out of pocket for health care services.

Why should we turn down Medicaid funds? We should not let that money simply go to another state, strengthening their communities instead of ours.

The system in Maine is not working. These federal dollars would make our workers (thus our communities) healthier, would create more jobs in our health care systems and would save lives by giving more Mainers health insurance. Maine cannot pass up this opportunity.

Christine Drabek, MS, LADC

executive director, Acadia Family Center

Southwest Harbor

 

It makes no sense to refuse to accept funds that provide primary care, at maybe $75 per visit, and force folks into emergency rooms, at possibly $1,000 per visit, in order to oppose what most of the intelligent world has: medical care for all.

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