For Immediate Release
AUGUSTA - The Maine Legislature's Health and Human Services Committee on Monday voted on party lines to approve a measure that would expand medical welfare to over 70,000 able-bodied adults while promising to implement managed care in the Medicaid system. Republicans opposed the proposal while Democrats supported it.
Rep. Carol McElwee (R-Caribou), an initial supporter of the expansion measure and member of the committee, voted against the bill, citing opposition both to managed care and to welfare expansion.
McElwee noted how most of the calls she received from supporters of expansion came from Portland, not from her rural Caribou district, and the level of opposition it faces in her home town in the face of alternatives on the health exchange.
"I applaud Rep. McElwee's decision and I thank her for being open-minded throughout the process in the face of new information and changing circumstances," said Assistant House Republican Leader Alex Willette of Mapleton.
Also during the committee's meeting, Rep. Deborah Sanderson (R-Chelsea), the ranking House Republican member, strongly objected to voting on the bill without clarification from the legislature's nonpartisan budget office, the Office of Fiscal and Program Review, on some of their figures for the cost of expansion.
The Department of Health and Human Services had provided OFPR with cost data showing a $2,862 annual per-member cost for parents above the poverty level. OFPR used a $1,618 annual figure. The difference amounts to roughly $15 million in FY15 and FY16.
"I asked the chairpersons if we could get Chris Nolan from OFPR to come and explain the difference because I believe it's irresponsible for us to vote on a bill without having a clear picture of the cost," said Rep. Sanderson.
Sanderson said that when she asked HHS Committee Chairman Rep. Richard Farnsworth before the meeting whether having Nolan answer questions was possible, Rep. Farnsworth replied that they would have to run it by Anna Hicks, the chief of staff of the Speaker's Office.
"That told me clearly that the committee is taking orders from leadership and not making its own informed decisions," said Rep. Sanderson. Committee chairpersons have the ultimate authority in when a vote takes place.
The welfare expansion measure could come before the full legislature at any time now that it has been voted on by the HHS Committee.
Maine House Republicans
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