May 6, 2013

Do the issues or politics rule tax reform debate?

By Steve Mistler smistler@pressherald.com
State House Bureau

(Continued from page 1)


New results from a New England Journal of Medicine study on health effects of receiving Medicaid is almost certain to intensify the debate over whether Maine should expand health insurance coverage for approximately 60,000 low-income Mainers.

Democrats support expanding the program, arguing that providing health insurance will reduce the use of emergency rooms and improve health outcomes overall.

Some of the study findings challenge that narrative.

The study is based on a 2008 lottery held in Oregon that awarded Medicaid coverage to 10,000 residents out of 90,000 applicants. Lottery participants agreed to participate in the study, self-reporting health care usage and outcomes.

The first results, published in 2011, were promising for Medicaid advocates. Recipients had less trouble paying medical bills and many saw significant improvements in mental health outcomes.

Results published last week were less promising: Medicaid recipients submitting to cholesterol, blood pressure and blood sugar tests -- indices for their susceptibility to type 2 diabetes -- showed no improvement and no difference from those who didn't receive health insurance.

The study's lead author, Katherine Baicker, a Harvard University professor, told The Washington Post that the study showed no immediate benefits to having Medicaid coverage. However, she said the results didn't say much about long-term outcomes.

Baicker also authored a study that found lower mortality rates in three states that expanded Medicaid coverage as compared to neighboring states that didn't.


It was lost in the shuffle of a busy week at the Legislature, but lawmakers overwhelmingly passed a resolution to overturn the U.S. Supreme Court's controversial 2009 Citizens United decision to allow unlimited campaign spending by corporations and unions.

The resolution passed 111-31 in the House and 25-5 in the Senate. Democrats unanimously supported the measure, while a total of 30 Republicans crossed over.

Republican skepticism centered on whether the resolution was meaningful and their agreement with the Supreme Court that campaign spending is the equivalent of free speech.

The Republicans who did support the resolution noted that while Democrats lament that corporations can drown out the voices of ordinary citizens, so, too, can unions. Rep. Dennis Keschl, R-Belgrade, made that same argument during the floor debate.

The bill's passage made Maine the 13th state to adopt such a resolution. The bill is part of a nationwide effort to urge Congress to pass a constitutional amendment that would overturn the Supreme Court ruling.

Steve Mistler can be contacted at 620-7016 or at:


Twitter: @stevemistler


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