Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Maine Hates Poor People

Maine, the same state that supported Romney for the GOP ticket, hates poor people. Governor LePage has made it known he wants to eliminate Medicaid coverage for 65,000 poor and another 2,000 seniors in group homes.

Trying to close a $220 million deficit in the budget, Gov. LePage has proposed cuts in Medicaid.

But Maine isn't the only state having problems.

The size of Maine’s Medicaid shortfall is substantial, but it pales in comparison to gaps in many other states. In fact, health experts in Maine say the program has survived far bigger shortfalls in recent years without cutting the rolls. Still, LePage argues that the program can no longer provide a “free lunch” to poor 19- and 20-year olds, or to healthy adults responsible for the care of others.

States have the same issues as the federal government, with one big difference. States can't print money.

Some of LePage’s proposed Medicaid cuts, such as eliminating dental care, physical therapy and chiropractic services, are not too different from ones that governors in both parties are recommending in states across the country. Neither are his proposed reductions in payments to hospitals and doctors or limits on prescription drug coverage.

But LePage also wants to get at enrollment, and this is what makes him, at the moment, the most draconian of the governors when it comes to health policy. In his January 24 state of the state speech, LePage argued that “we have encouraged people to rely on the taxpayers, rather than rely on themselves.” The cuts to enrollment, he argues, are necessary to shore up the state’s safety net so it can continue to care for its most vulnerable residents — children, elders and the disabled

I agree.

This country was built on self reliance. Over the last 70 years or so we have evolved into a welfare state where almost anyone can apply for and receive government assistance.

Betina Pelletier lives about 20 miles from the state capital of Augusta, in the town of Oakland. She has relied on Medicaid on and off since she became a single mother 25 years ago. Recently she had to quit her job to take care of her mother. Pelletier pays her bills by running a small home-based day care service. If she loses Medicaid, she says there won’t be enough money for the medicines she herself needs to treat her diabetes. “I’ll be forced to take a full-time job to get insurance,” she says. “I wonder how much the state will have to pay for my mother’s nursing home if that happens? ’’

25 years?

Something wrong with this picture.

Time for reform.

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