Sebelius offer on waivers could help with next budget shortfall
February 23, 2012
AUGUSTA -- Key Democratic lawmakers are urging the LePage Administration to accept an offer from U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to send a team of experts to Maine to assist with better managing the state’s Medicaid costs. Sebelius told the Senate Finance Committee last week that she had made the offer to Governor Paul LePage in a private conversation.
“Maine should welcome this assistance from the Obama Administration,” said Cain. “We know the governor’s current proposals to throw people off of health care are irresponsible and likely illegal. We should work with these experts to find a way to better manage the care without eliminating critical health care programs for Maine people.”
The Obama Administration’s offer comes on the heels of a letter sent last month by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), which is overseen by Sebelius, indicating that plans by the LePage Administration to take health care access away from thousands of people would be prohibited.
The LePage Administration is proposing $37 million in cuts to the budget for the state’s version of Medicaid, known as MaineCare. The cuts require exemptions or “waivers” from federal rules known as Maintenance of Effort requirements for the program. Last month, Democratic lawmakers sent a letter to CMS asking if those waivers would be approved.
The reply from CMS said the waivers would only be granted to states experimenting with new ways to provide coverage to the needy, and not to efforts aimed at balancing budgets.
“As we go into the next round of budget cuts, Democrats will be looking for solutions that manage care more efficiently and increase our health outcomes,” said Rep. Mark Eves, D-North Berwick, the lead House Democrat on the state Legislature’s Health and Human Services Committee. “Cutting to the bone will only shift costs and harm Maine communities. We must take a smarter approach to delivering care.”
Lawmakers gave final passage to a budget earlier today that resolves an immediate shortfall in DHHS for this year. The Legislature will now begin work on the remaining $84 million in proposed cuts to the DHHS budget for 2013 in a separate bill later this month.
Jodi Quintero [Cain, Eves], 287-1488, c. 841-6279