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Rep. Deborah Sanderson (R-Chelsea)
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For Immediate Release

Date: 03/05/14

Bill to Improve Medicaid Funding to Nursing Homes Approved by Committee

Bipartisan initiative exemplifies crowding-out effect of ObamaCare expansion

AUGUSTA - The Maine Legislature's Health and Human Services Committee on Wednesday afternoon gave a unanimous "Ought to Pass" report to LD 1776, a bill that would improve Medicaid reimbursement to nursing homes.

The Legislature established the Long-Term Care Facilities Study Commission last year in order to identify ways to help Maine's nursing homes, which a Commission member later commented were "on the brink" due to chronic underfunding. According to the Commission, Medicaid underfunded Maine nursing homes by $29.4 million in 2011.

"Medicaid was established to help our most vulnerable neighbors, especially the elderly," said Rep. Deborah Sanderson (R-Chelsea), the ranking House Republican on the Health and Human Services Committee. "We must get Medicaid's priorities straight and help our senior citizens instead of expanding coverage to tens of thousands of able-bodied young adults.

LD 1776 would increase Medicaid reimbursements for services provided to nursing homes in the care of Maine's elderly by $10 million.

"Proper funding is needed for our nursing homes to survive," testified Lori Fortier of St. Mary's d'Youville Pavilion nursing home in Lewiston, who noted the hit nursing homes have taken with recent cuts to Medicare rates. Medicare reimbursements were slashed by ObamaCare in order to pay for Medicaid expansion to younger adults. St. Mary's employs 300 people and 68 percent of its residents rely on Medicaid funding. The facility lost $2.4 million to Medicaid underfunding.

Deb Fournier of Maine Veterans' Homes was also among those testifying in support of the bill. "As an association, we have delivered a message of concern over the years that this day would come—insufficient MaineCare funding will threaten the viability of many nursing homes, particularly those that rely on MaineCare for the majority of their resident's. It's here," she said to lawmakers on the committee Wednesday afternoon.

"Hearing this testimony about underfunding our nursing homes reaffirms what Republicans have been saying all along: Medicaid expansion would erode our ability to fund critical services elsewhere," added Rep. Sanderson. "It will be hard to fund this bill with the large Medicaid program we have already, let alone if we expand it to 70,000 or more working-age adults."

Maine's Medicaid program currently ranks third in the nation for enrollment and has doubled as a share of the state budget since 1998, running up $750 million in debt to Maine hospitals that was only last year paid off at the urging of Gov. LePage and Republicans.

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