The LePage administration’s banner achievement of paying off several hundred million dollars of hospital debt will last about as long as it takes the people who are denied Maine’s Medicaid coverage to incur that debt again when they seek medical care. Even more so when emergency rooms are the resort instead of doctor’s offices or clinics. Such is the wisdom of state government that places budget above health.

Health and Human Services Commissioner Mary Mayhew reveals her priorities when she states, “Fighting for the flexibility states need from the federal government to manage their welfare programs, balance their budgets and insure that the needs of the taxpayers and the truly needy are not forgotten.”

I’ve yet to hear what the definition of truly needy is besides being last in line. When I worked 5-and-a-half years as a foster care worker in a large welfare department we called them clients. The 19-and-20-year-olds she deems not fit to have health coverage were just past the age when I would close out their cases and suggest they join the armed services if they had no other plans. I doubt if Ms. Mayhew would care to provide counseling.

Shortly after Gov. LePage took office, my younger son was forced to drop his MaineCare coverage when his monthly premium increased from $180 to $325. Not even his father could help him anymore. While he was covered, my son had a medical condition treated and corrected. Now, he is able to get restful sleep and be a more productive person. I’d like to see the cost analysis on that one. People are an investment ”“ not a line item.

I had my own train wreck 35 years ago when the stress of listening to people’s problems coincided with a genetic predisposition for a mental illness. I don’t care to repeat how someone’s life can fall apart. Fortunately, I had support from my family. The only choice was move forward. Except for my kids, I do not consider myself an example for anybody else nor condemn someone because they are not up to my standards. I figure charity is in the heart as well as the wallet.

Most of the teenagers in my caseload had a problem. Instability was part of their lives and many only knew how to react adversely ”“ hard-wired for negative reinforcement. They had to be convinced that somebody care. Not everyone came with a set of bootstraps. If the teenager, at that time, couldn’t live in a foster home for $5 a day, he could end up in a group home or institutional setting for $25-100 a day, or detention for $200. With health coverage, the client might receive counseling/treatment and remain in the foster home.

I occasionally wonder about the kids I worked with and how they turned out. As a social worker, I had to treat the hopeless the same as the hopeful. I was there to help. If they accepted some level of help, there was hope. If there is no help, there’s not much hope. I think our governor would agree. I’d be willing to bank on it.

Doug Yohman, East Waterboro