May 1, 2013

U.S. pledge on Medicaid sparks clash in Maine

Democrats say the clarification on federal funding paves the way for expansion in Maine, but LePage officials say it falls short.

By Kevin Miller kmiller@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 1)

Mayhew said Sebelius' letter did not address that issue, which will be key to the LePage administration's decision.

Mayhew said it also remains unclear to her department how Maine would be reimbursed, since the state previously offered more generous Medicaid coverage than the federal government required.

"It's why we wrote the letter (to Sebelius), to better understand what they are willing to do to work with Maine," said Mayhew, who will meet with top officials in Washington this week to discuss the issue.

In her letter to LePage, Sebelius pledged to continue working with the administration on the issue, but did not address the 10-year request. "I remain committed to working with you to consider all available options for ensuring the sustainability of your Medicaid programs," Sebelius wrote.

Democratic leaders had received their own letter from the head of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, Cindy Mann.

That letter, combined with Sebelius' note to LePage, constitute a "game changer," they said.

Democratic U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree of Maine also called on LePage to expand Medicaid.

"Those federal funds come from taxpayers in Maine and around the country," Pingree said in a prepared statement. "So if we turn the funding down, Maine people will be subsidizing Medicaid expansion in other states and not getting anything in return. It just doesn't make sense."

Pingree is married to S. Donald Sussman, majority share owner of MaineToday Media, publisher of the Portland Press Herald.

Maine's political debate over expanding Medicaid is tied to a debate in the Legislature about paying more than $484 million in Medicaid reimbursements owed to hospitals.

Democratic leaders have linked the two by saying they will back the LePage administration's high-priority hospital reimbursement plan if the governor agrees to expand Medicaid. They say the reimbursement plan is moving forward, but the two issues are tied because care for the uninsured is driving up health care costs.

That has been scorned by Republicans in the Legislature and the LePage administration, who accused Democrats of threatening to scuttle the reimbursement plan.

"The Republican caucus, I think, flatly will not go along with coupling the hospital debt with Medicaid expansion," said Rep. Kenneth Fredette, R-Newport.

He said LePage would veto any coupled bill and, without Republican support, Democrats would not be able to override the veto.

Kevin Miller can be contacted at 317-6256 or at:


Twitter: @KevinMillerDC


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