Maine Senate passes historic medicaid/hospital repayment bill along party lines

Posted Wednesday, May 22, 2013 in News

Maine Senate passes historic medicaid/hospital repayment bill along party lines

Assistant Majority Leader Troy Jackson of Allagash spoke about two neighbors in his hometown who had health problems similar to his own. “Of the three of us, I was the only one with health insurance, I could afford to get the care I need, and I’m the only one who is alive. I can’t help thinking that’s the reason: I had health insurance. We should be throwing people like them a line, not pulling up the ladder behind us.”

by Andi Parkinson

Yesterday in a 20-15 vote, the Senate passed an historic measure to repay Maine’s hospital debt and accept federal funds to expand healthcare coverage for nearly 70,000 Mainers.

As passed, the bill (LD 1546) also makes the final payment to Maine hospitals, totaling $485 million in state and federal dollars. Maine hospitals will also receive an additional $163 million a year in federal dollars for treating newly insured Maine residents if Maine accepts the federal health care dollars.

Nearly 70,000 Maine people can receive healthcare coverage as soon as Maine accepts the federal government’s offer. The federal government has agreed to pay 100% of the cost for covering all newly eligible people for the first three years and then gradually lowering its payment to no less than 90 percent of the cost by 2020. Maine is projected to save $690 million in the next 10 years when it accepts the federal dollars, according to the nonpartisan Kaiser Foundation and the conservative Heritage Foundation. Maine is also one of 10 states that will see Medicaid expenditures go down over the next 10 years. Nearly 70 percent of Maine people support accepting federal health care dollars to increase access to health care, according to the nonpartisan Maine People’s Resource Center.

According to the Maine Hospital Association, both bad debt and charity care cost $450 million last year, an increase of $32 million from the previous year. Insuring nearly 70,000 Mainers will reduce hospital charity care and bad debt costs. The Maine Hospital Association has stated its support for paying back the hospitals and accepting federal health care dollars. According to the Maine Center for Economic Policy, accepting federal dollars would inject an additional $250 million of federal funding into Maine’s economy and create more than 3,100 jobs with more than 1,700 jobs in the healthcare industry alone.

During Monday’s debate, many senators shared personal stories of people’s lives that will be impacted if the state accepts the federal government’s offer.

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