March 15, 2013

Maine Voices: Maine needs to take advantage of federal health care funds

By GEOFF GRATWICK, M.D.

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Hospitals are worried that the state will no longer feel the same obligation to pay its share of the current Medicaid debt once their immediate fiscal needs are met by this new infusion of federal money.

Others are concerned that the federal government will not live up to its promise and will decrease its Medicaid reimbursement to less than 90 percent, although Maine has the option to 'opt out' if the program does not work.

In 1944, near the end of the World War II, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt said in his State of the Union address, "We cannot be content, no matter how high (our) standard of living may be, if some fraction of our people -- whether it be one-third or one-fifth or one-tenth -- is ill-fed, ill-clothed, ill-housed and insecure."

In Maine, too many are ill-clothed, ill-housed, and insecure -- and without health care. While this program does not solve the fundamental flaws of our health care system, it is, for some, a lifesaving step in the right direction.

Gov. LePage can follow the lead of other Republican governors and accept these funds to rescue those who live with insecurity and ill health through no fault of their own.

It is an easy and potentially lifesaving decision with little downside. We will all reap the long-term benefits. Accepting federal funds already set aside to cover the health care of more Maine people is too good an opportunity to pass up.

Geoff Gratwick, M.D., a Democrat, is state senator from District 32, Bangor and Hermon.  He is a doctor in private practice.

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