July 1, 2013

Letters to the editor: Medicaid veto puts Maine in bad spot

I was born in Rumford and graduated from Orono in 1960. One year later I got an engineering job in Honolulu and have been here ever since.

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Gov. LePage’s veto of a proposal to accept federal funds to expand eligibility for Medicaid leaves poor, uninsured Mainers with little choice but to seek higher-cost care in emergency rooms, readers say.

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I was moved to send this because I just read that Gov. LePage vetoed expanded Medicaid for Maine. I've lived with the first-in-the-nation version of Obamacare since the state of Hawaii implemented its fundamentals 39 years ago.

The first thing Hawaii did was to give free insurance to our poor. This was our 1974 version of today's Medicaid expansion. Something bordering on miraculous happened as a result:

The poor quit using the world's most expensive and least effective health care, our emergency rooms.

This unloaded the ERs. Unloading the ERs ended the ERs as the huge loss centers they were in all our hospitals. Hospital costs for everybody else dropped dramatically.

The poor shifted to early detection and prevention of illness. This increased demand, which was covered by surplus ER personnel.

Health outcomes soared, and health care costs plunged. The state's per capita health care costs were cut significantly after paying for the free insurance.

It resulted in a six-year increase in our life expectancy, where we now lead the nation.

Hawaii, the state with the nation's highest cost of living, now has, by far, the nation's lowest per capita health care costs.

This is what Gov. LePage and other Republican governors and legislatures are fighting to prevent in their states. And, having lived with this awesome system of ours for 39 years, I find it shameful.

A few years ago, there was a Harvard University study concluding that 43,000 poor Americans die prematurely and unnecessarily each year for lack of health insurance. Expanded Medicaid will put a stop to this most shameful statistic. Thanks to Gov. LePage, Maine's contribution to this shame will continue unabated.

Rick Lloyd

Honolulu

If anyone is surprised at the refusal of federal money to expand MaineCare (because, if memory serves me, Gov. LePage worried about what the costs might be after the three-year period of 100 percent funding), they must have been living under a rock.

The Press Herald has been on top of that story from Day One. The negative outcomes have been obvious. I know, because if I couldn't figure it out for myself, I have had plenty of opportunity to read about the consequences of not providing medical care for those individuals who fall between the cracks.

The "let them eat cake" approach voiced by Rep. Deborah Sanderson was beyond shocking. In speaking of the loophole that 10,500 Mainers will fall into ("Mainers fall into Medicaid loophole," June 23), her paraphrased comment that it may be "helpful in some cases as it will spur people to earn more money" indicates a real disconnect between her worldview and life as it is.

I think it's safe to assume that people living on the economic edge would prefer to have a more comfortable life. In Maine, many people are forced to choose between life's necessities on a daily basis.

With no medical insurance, the only option for receiving medical care is the emergency room. It solves immediate problems, but doesn't relieve people of the burden of continuing care and necessary treatment and medications for chronic medical conditions. And doesn't that also place an increased burden on those people who are lucky enough to be insured?

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