DEMOCRATS SUPPORT A MEASURE TO INCREASE HEALTH CARE COVERAGE FOR TENS OF THOUSANDS OF MAINERS
Proposed legislation will save money and create jobs
AUGUSTA—Members of the state’s Health and Human Services committee held a public hearing today on a bill that would expand health care coverage for up to 69,500 Mainers at no cost to the state.
Under the Affordable Care Act, Maine is given the option to accept federal funds to cover more of the cost for some people already covered under the MaineCare health insurance program and provide health insurance for Mainers currently uninsured.
“Too many Mainers lack needed health coverage,” said Senator Margaret Craven, D-Lewiston, Chair of the Health and Human Services Committee. “This bill will provide tens of thousands of our neighbors with health insurance, so they don’t have to choose between buying groceries or going to the doctor.”
The measure has received broad support from physicians, the Maine Hospital Association, the Maine Medical Association, the Maine Osteopathic Association, clergy, and health care advocates.
Senator and Doctor Geoff Gratwick, D-Bangor, a co-sponsor of the bill, said the measure would also boost Maine’s economy.
“Building a strong economy and a strong middle class means making sure people have the health care they need, when they need it, at an affordable cost,” Senator Gratwick said. “Accepting federal funds to increase health coverage will strengthen Maine’s economy and provide health coverage to thousands of hard-working Mainers.”
The measure would infuse $250 million of additional federal funding into Maine’s economy and create more than 3,100 jobs in Maine. Nearly 1,700 of those jobs will be created directly by health care businesses.
Governor Paul LePage, who had publicly shunned the Affordable Care Act, has recently expressed interest in accepting the federal dollars. Governors across the country, including high-profile Republicans, have accepted the federal health care funds.
Since Governor LePage came into office, his administration cut health care for thousands of Maine people, yet medical costs have continued to rise. In 2014, 44,000 Maine people will be denied health care, including veterans, the elderly, and people with disabilities.
During the hearing, Senator Colleen Lachowicz, D-Waterville, questioned Health and Human Services Commissioner Mary Mayhew about the costs of not providing health insurance to those who need it.
“I think about the three children I know who lost their parents because of a lack of health insurance,” said Lachowicz, a social worker. “Before we decide we can’t afford to provide more coverage, we have to think about costs and effects of childhood trauma, like the death of a parent, and decide if we can afford not to help our friends and neighbors.”
Maine is projected to save $690 million in the next 10 years if it accepts the federal dollars, according to the nonpartisan Kaiser Foundation and the conservative Heritage Foundation.
The committee has scheduled a work session on the bill, LD 1066, An Act To Increase Access to Health Coverage and Qualify Maine for Federal Funding, for Tuesday April 9 at 1:30 p.m. in room 209 of the Cross Building.