Politics

April 27, 2013

Maine Democrats offer deal on debt to hospitals

Gov. LePage blasts the proposal, which links repayment of the debt to an expansion of Medicaid.

By Steve Mistler smistler@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 1)

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Maine Senate President Justin Aflond, left, and Speaker of the House Mark Eves

Staff File Photo

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Gov. Paul LePage

Shawn Patrick Ouellette / Staff Photographer

The Medicaid expansion would cover "able-bodied" parents, and adults who have no children and earn as much as 133 percent of the federal poverty level -- just over $20,500 a year for a two-person household.

The federal government would pay 100 percent of the state's costs for the expansion from 2014 to 2016. In subsequent years, reimbursements would decline gradually to 90 percent of the state's costs.

LePage has expressed willingness to participate in Medicaid expansion, but he is getting pressure not to expand a program that Republicans often call "welfare" and blame for the state's ongoing budget problems. 

The administration has told the Obama administration that Maine will consider participating in the expansion if the federal government pays for affected recipients for 10 years.

The proposal, outlined in a letter to U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, is effectively LePage's counterproposal to the federal government's plan.

In the letter to Sebelius, Maine Health and Human Services Commissioner Mary Mayhew said the state has been penalized for voluntarily expanding Medicaid eligibility in 2003. She said that because federal reimbursement rates for some Medicaid recipients have since decreased, other states are getting a better deal for participating in the expansion than Maine would.

Democratic leaders have said the governor's proposal isn't likely to win approval but they are encouraged that LePage is looking to accept federal dollars to expand Medicaid in Maine.

The state is projected to spend $776 million on MaineCare -- as Medicaid is called in Maine -- in the fiscal year ending June 30. That's 25 percent of its overall budget.

Counting federal money, nearly $2.4 billion will be spent on MaineCare this year.

LePage, in his prepared remarks, said "common-sense legislators" want to pay the hospitals "but Democratic leadership is refusing to let them vote on it."

LePage said: "Let's put each legislator on the record with a clean vote on the hospital bill. Do they want to pay the hospitals or not?"

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

smistler@pressherald.com

Twitter: @stevemistler

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