To the editor:

The Legislature on Feb. 23 cast the final votes necessary to enact a bipartisan solution to the 2012 budget shortfall at the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS).

Casting my vote in favor of this budget was one of the toughest decisions I have ever had to make. Nobody enjoys cutting services to thousands of Mainers, but upon reflection of the numbers and the budget history at DHHS, I felt that we needed to do something to address the growth of our public health insurance program.

MaineCare (Maine’s Medicaid program) has grown by 45 percent in just the past 10 years, with enrollment expanding by 78 percent during the same time.

DHHS has gone over budget by tens of millions of dollars every year for almost a decade.

Our Medicaid program is among the most generous in the nation. With 27 percent of Maine’s population on Medicaid, we rank third in the nation for enrollment. Our Medicaid spending per capita ranks fourth.

Our tax burden ranks similarly high. I soon realized which way the budget needed to go.

Additionally, the supplemental budget passed on Feb. 23 staves off near-term disaster. It ensures that medical providers will keep getting paid and patients will keep getting care through the end of the fiscal year, and that our local hospitals will retain vital federal matching funds.

We now face the task of crafting a solution to the 2013 budget shortfall. I am confident that the Legislature will strike a good balance, once again, between preserving care for those who need it and trimming costs where we can.

Rep. Kimberly Olsen,

[email protected]