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An anti-expansion activist thanks Rep. Carol McElwee (left) for her vote against welfare expansion.
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For Immediate Release

Date: 03/14/14

MaineCare Must Prioritize Nursing Homes, Waitlists Over Able-Bodied Adults

Disabled and elderly underfunded by $75 million per year while Dems talk expansion for able-bodied

AUGUSTA - House Republican leaders on Friday called attention to the underfunding of services for disabled and elderly Mainers, saying that these should be the priorities of Maine's scarce Medicaid dollars, not able-bodied, predominantly young adults.

"Medicaid and other public assistance programs were originally designed to help the elderly, the disabled, and children, not able-bodied young men," said House Republican Leader Ken Fredette of Newport. "It's the severely autistic young man who needs professional care. It's the elderly grandmother who depends on her nursing home for food and shelter. These are people we cannot leave behind."

The Maine Long Term Care Commission recently found that in 2011, MaineCare underfunded nursing homes by $29.4 million. Estimates by the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) put the cost at funding and clearing wait lists for home care services for severely disabled Mainers at $45 million per year.

"The vast majority of those who would be put onto Medicaid if we expand under ObamaCare can already get coverage on the exchange for a few dollars per month with low copays and deductibles," said Assistant House Republican Leader Alex Willette of Mapleton. "Republicans are opposing Medicaid expansion because we are tired of welfare being prioritized toward a broad group of those who can provide for themselves rather than the neediest few."

The Bangor Daily News and WABI in January profiled disabled Mainers at risk due to the size of the wait lists. Most news outlets have yet to cover this "lost group." The wait lists for home care services currently hold 3,100 people, but DHHS has indicated that many more who need the services have not come forward because they see it as an exercise in futility.

Of Maine nursing home residents, 68 percent receive their funding through MaineCare, which has only provided two modest reimbursement rate increases in the past decade. Overall MaineCare spending has doubled even as a Calais nursing home was forced to close in 2012 for lack of funding.

"We fully support LD 1776, which finds funding to pay for a $10 million annual rate increase to the facilities that care for Maine's elderly," said House Republican Leader Ken Fredette of Newport. "The bill is paid for initially, but if we expand Medicaid, our ability to properly care for our elderly neighbors will be even further at risk."

According to Maine's DHHS, of the childless adults to be covered by the proposed Medicaid expansion, 60 percent are under the age of 45, 60 percent are males, 75 percent are single, all are non-disabled, and all are age 19-64. As Senate Democrats have pointed out, 42 percent of MaineCare recipients are smokers.

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Contact:
David Sorensen
Maine House Republicans
Tel: (207) 205-7793