While Senate President Justin Alfond is now trying to take credit for Governor Paul LePage and Republican’s work in paying off Maine’s massive hospital welfare debt, this video shows Alfond actually advocated against paying the hospitals, labeling the non-payment of bills a “meaningful cut”.
Democrats Kill Rep. Amy Volk Bill to Help Human Trafficking Victims
Party-line vote against women comes as big surprise to GOP women
AUGUSTA – The Democrat-controlled Legislative Council—the panel of all 10 members of Maine state legislative leadership—on Wednesday killed Rep. Amy Volk (R-Scarborough)’s bill to help the victims of human trafficking by allowing courts to vacate their prostitution convictions.
The vote fell along party lines, with the four Republican members voting to let the measure into the upcoming legislative session and the six Democratic members voting in opposition to it. No reasons were given for their votes.
The bill received much attention in the media last week as victim advocates and lawmakers from both parties voiced their support.
“I am rather stunned that Democratic leadership killed this bill to address a major issue facing women,” said Rep. Volk. “I had been contacted by women from both parties about cosponsoring the bill and there seemed to be a lot of interest, but for some reason Democratic leadership did not consider it a priority.”
Bills submitted for the second regular session of the Maine Legislature, which runs from January through April, must be considered “emergencies.” The legislature will take up several hundred such bills.
“Democratic leadership approved many relatively minor bills, and if helping the women who fall victim to sex trafficking isn’t a priority, I don’t know what is,” added Volk. “There are women out there carrying prostitution convictions even though they had no control over their circumstances. Because of today’s decision, they may have to wait another year or more to appeal the convictions that are holding them back in terms of jobs and education.”
Other House Republican women voiced their concern about the priorities of Democratic leadership.
“We hear a lot about a ‘war on women’ being waged by Republicans, but this goes to show that the real offenders are oftentimes Democrats,” said Rep. Joyce Maker (R-Calais).
“I’m shocked by the priorities of Democratic leaders today,” said Rep. Beth Turner (R-Burlington). “This bill should have passed unanimously.”
Rep. Volk will have until November 6 to file an appeal of the decision before Legislative Council.
[Photo caption: The Legislative Council meets in its chambers at the State House in Augusta, Oct. 30, 2013.]
Members of the press,
As a follow up to the press release below that we sent to you on October 3, 2013, regarding Mike Michaud’s votes against veterans, we would like to present the following:
Bangor Daily News: Shutdown’s effect on Maine spreads to VA benefits administrators(Note: at the end of this article Michaud’s previous quote calling the Republican bill a ‘political ploy’ - we have to wonder if these administrators think voting to keep them working was a ploy now that they’re out of work.)
Press Herald: Shutdown’s effects ensnare Maine’s veterans (Note: No mention of Michaud’s votes against funding critical operations of the VA - but there is a mention of the fact that if the shutdown continues for three more weeks, disability and pension benefits would not be paid. We wonder if Mike Michaud thought about this when he voted against funding for veterans’ benefits)
From the PPH article:“Of more serious concern is what will happen if the shutdown continues for another three weeks. At that time, the VA would run out of money for disability compensation and pension benefits, potentially affecting millions of older and disabled Americans.”
Also, please read Ethan Strimling’s BDN attack blog by clicking here - and follow it by reading about Ethan Strimling and his discovery of a vast bipartisan conspiracy to return the VA to the era of abacus and typewriter. Pretty hard for Ethan and Mike Michaud to claim the veterans’ benefits bills were right-wing Republican plots when many Democrats crossed the aisle to vote for them.
Also, this piece from Kevin Miller at Maine Today Media actually dug into the issue and pointed out Michaud’s multiple votes against veterans and paying National Guard and Reserve Personnel: Stalemate politics: Votes fuel attacks on Collins, Michaud
We quoted Miller’s piece in a social media graphic that went viral and has been shared more than 750 times and seen by about 30,000 people.
ORIGINAL PRESS RELEASE BELOW:
For Immediate Release: October 3, 2013
Contact: Jason Savage (207) 622-6247
REPUBLICAN PARTY QUESTIONS MICHAUD’S LEADERSHIP IN VOTE AGAINST FUNDING FOR VETERANS
Michaud casts vote denying funding for Veteran’s Affairs
AUGUSTA - The Maine Republican Party today issued a statement questioning Congressman Mike Michaud’s leadership and priorities in light of his vote against the funding of veterans’ benefits in favor of partisan gridlock and a federal government shutdown.
"Mike Michaud has claimed support of Maine’s veterans as hallmark of his Congressional term," said Jason Savage, executive director of the Maine Republican Party. "But this vote contradicts everything the Maine people think they know about Congressman Michaud."
"Thirty-three Democrats in the House broke rank with their party leaders and had the courage to vote to provide funding for veterans’ benefits in the face of this government shutdown, but Mike Michaud was not one of them," said Savage.
Savage said it is time that Maine people, especially Maine veterans and their families, get some answers, “What are Maine’s veterans to think about Mike Michaud’s recent political turn? Are our veterans as important to Mike Michaud as helping his partisan leadership team to score a few political points? Isn’t it worth making sure our veterans are taken care of, even if it means Mike has to show some courage and buck his party, just this once?”
"Let’s hope that Mike Michaud somehow musters the courage and conviction to stand with Maine’s veterans in the future, even if it means bucking his party leaders," concluded Savage. "This recent vote against veterans is certainly not a profile in courage - Maine deserves better."
The roll call referenced above, roll call 506, can be found at the following link:http://clerk.house.gov/evs/2013/roll506.xml
Please read and share the following communication from Maine House Republican leadership, who were not notified by Democratic leadership of an emergency Appropriations meeting today.
For Immediate Release, October 9, 2013
Contact: David Sorensen
Communications Director, Maine House Republicans
Fredette Blasts Dems for Lack of Communication
on Emergency Meeting
House GOP Leader learns of meeting midway through
while driving on interstate
AUGUSTA – House Republican leaders today reacted with surprise to the emergency meeting of the legislature’s Appropriations and Financial Affairs (AFA) and Health and Human Services (HHS) Committees called by Democratic leadership.
“We had no idea this was happening,” said House Republican Leader Ken Fredette of Newport. “It’s customary for majority leadership to discuss legislative hearings with minority leadership, but we’ve seen repeated lapses in communication with the Speaker’s Office.”
“Speaker Eves and his office never contacted me or my staff about this emergency meeting which they planned a week ago,” continued Fredette. “I only learned about it today while the meeting was taking place and I was driving down the highway. Speaker Eves has my e-mail address and my cell phone number. His actions as Speaker in not notifying Republican leadership are irresponsible during this time of great uncertainty at the federal level and call into question Democratic leadership’s response to the federal government shutdown. This should be a time of collaboration and communication, not politics as usual.”
Assistant House Republican Leader Alex Willette of Mapleton likewise was unaware of Wednesday’s emergency meeting.
“This lack of communication from the Democrats tells me two things,” said Fredette. “First, it’s ironic how Democrats have been attacking Gov. LePage over a supposed lack of communication, yet they turn around and do the same thing with their own colleagues in the legislature. Second, if this were a substantive meeting about solving problems, perhaps we would have known. But it’s clear that Democrats simply wanted to drag Commissioner Mayhew before the committees for a photo-op where they could attack the Administration.
“This isn’t productive,” said Willette. “It’s exactly the type of political showmanship and hypocrisy that we’re seeing in Washington, D.C. right now.”
Fredette added that he is confident in Commissioner Mayhew’s ability to appeal the federal government’s recent decision to cut off $20 million in funding to Riverview Psychiatric Hospital.
“I’m encouraged by the fact that Attorney General Mills and Commissioner Mayhew are working closely together in a bipartisan manner to solve this problem and fight for funding for this institution which is vital to the health and well-being of our state,” he said.
Please read the following memo from Brent Littlefield, Senior Advisor to Governor Paul LePage.
Former Democratic State Senator and liberal pundit Ethan Strimling this morning said it better than anyone,
“In a District where Democrat Bill Diamond is strong, Governor LePage is as well. He is up by 12 points over Mike Michaud…. This is a classic swing District. He won it back in 2010 by 6 points, now he is up 12 points. So that certainly is stronger for him… Democrats have got to be very aware that there’s a whole lot of middle Maine out there that’s feeling just as they did about Governor LePage three years ago…”
His fellow pundit Phil Harriman chimed in: “That just affirms the things I hear on the street. (People) love the changes and the policies that he is advocating for in Augusta.”
This was in reference to the poll released yesterday in the Bangor Daily News run by Democratic polling firm PPP of a swing Senate district west of Portland held by Democrats for many years. The New York Time’s has reported that PPP has a Democratic bias across its surveys of approximately 3%; meaning the LePage total is likely higher.
Audio of Strimling and Harriman here: http://560wgan.com/ken-and-mike/10-9-eye-on-politics/
Note, the poll showed that 34% of respondents were Republicans but 42% were voting for LePage. Meaning that 8% of LePage’s vote is coming from Democrats and Independents.
Go here to share with your friends on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=557479837650444&set=a.134529786612120.26535.134490956616003&type=1&theater
This is a question that’s stirred some debate recently. Republicans have always considered Medicaid—a means-tested public benefit that’s received based on income guidelines, much like TANF or food stamps—to be welfare. Democrats lately have been contending that it’s not, especially within the context of the Medicaid expansion debate.
So, what do others have to say?
It’s telling that Pennsylvania, a state whose decision to expand Medicaid under the ACA is being touted by Maine Democrats today, places its Medicaid program within the state’s “Department of Public Welfare.” The Department’s home page lists “Medical Assistance” (the name for PA’s Medicaid program) right next to Cash Assistance and Food Stamps when directing visitors to apply for benefits (column on the right).
Idaho’s Medicaid program similarly falls under that state’s Department of Health and Welfare.
In Nevada, the Division of Welfare and Supportive Services determines eligibility for the Medicaid program.
Most states administer their Medicaid program under the same cabinet-level department as the rest of their welfare programs, such as cash assistance, food stamps, and rent subsidies. If it’s really health insurance and not welfare, wouldn’t Medicaid be administered by the states’ departments or bureaus of insurance?
The University of Pennsylvania’s School of Social Work considers Medicaid to be welfare, classifying it as non-cash assistance right next to Food Stamps and rent subsidies (page 18).
Even AARP considers Medicaid to be welfare.
Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines welfare, in part: “a government program for poor or unemployed people that helps pay for their food, housing, medical costs, etc. [emphasis added].”
Historically, Medicaid has always been cognizable as a welfare program, being signed into law originally as a part of President Lyndon Johnson’s “Great Society” initiative and factoring largely into the 1996 federal welfare reform law. In fact, prior to the national welfare reform, Medicaid coverage used to be automatically extended to those who receive cash welfare benefits.
As a means-tested public benefit that’s granted based on income guidelines, it has much more in common with Food Stamps and TANF than it does with Medicare or Unemployment Insurance, which are granted by virtue of age or employment, not means.
Of course, Medicaid, like other public benefits, is of vital importance for the truly needy in our society, but a growing number of Mainers and Americans believe that it’s not just the truly needy who are reaping the benefits of welfare.
It’s natural for Democrats to resist the term “welfare” as a descriptor of Medicaid. They don’t want to be the party of expanding welfare.
But that’s what it is, and that’s what they are.
· In 2011 Republicans finally capped Maine’s Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) eligibility at 5 years.
· Maine was previously one of only seven states to have no lifetime limit on these cash welfare benefits, belying the first word in the TANF acronym.
· Some of the savings from this reform were used to fund job location programs at DHHS, Dept. of Education, and Dept. of Labor, helping Mainers move from welfare to work.
· Partly as a result, Maine’s unemployment rate has dropped from 8% to 6.8% and there are 13,750 more employed Mainers.
Following is text from a one page handout from Maine DHHS on the reality of the welfare expansion being proposed by Democrats in Augusta.
June 6, 2013
Is Expanding Medicaid Right for Maine?
Consider the facts:
• The MaineCare program (Maine’s Medicaid program) has grown by $1 Billion since 2000 alone
• MaineCare enrollment has grown 80% in just 13 years, from 164,000 to340,000 people – 1 out of every 3 Mainers are on MaineCare
• MaineCare spending accounts for 25% of state spending, up from 13% just 15 years ago, taking away from investments in educations and infrastructure like roads and bridges
• Medicaid expansion would add an estimated 75,000 able-bodied adults to MaineCare – a program that is currently $200 million in the hole
• There are 3,100 disabled and elderly on waiting lists for services today, and MaineCare expansion would send state tax dollars to cover able-bodied adults that could be used instead to help those disabled and frail elderly waiting for home and community supports
• MaineCare expansion will cost Maine taxpayers as much as $75 million every year starting in just a few years
• The federal government says they will pay for some of the expansion, but has serious fiscal challenges that could threaten their ability to follow through on their commitment
• If Maine chooses not to expand MaineCare to non-disabled adults, there will be other options for them to get health coverage, including insurance subsidized by the federal government with no cost to Maine
Please read and share the following internal memo sent to the press discussing the Democrats plan to attach welfare expansion to paying Maine’s hospital bills.
Consider the following information for your stories on tonight’s debate and vote on the Democrats’ mega-bill to cram welfare expansion and hospital payment together and ram them through the legislature. We have both procedural and substantive concerns with this “cram and ram” policy.
I just got some recent numbers from DHHS, which you can confirm with the department’s legislative liaison. The Department says Medicaid expansion as proposed tonight will cost Maine taxpayers—the General Fund—$75 million per year at the 90% match rate. The total cost over the seven years following the “free period” would be roughly $400 million. That assumes the enrollment estimates are correct… which would be a first. Last time, we saw over twice as many people enroll as we expected. That also assumes that the ACA’s individual mandate won’t drive even more able-bodied, childless adults onto MaineCare.
We’re facing a perfect storm of budgetary hemorrhage with Medicaid expansion as proposed.
That’s why we must pass Rep. Fredette’s minority report and study the issue further because the deal before us is a bad deal for Maine. In the meantime, we must make good on our promise to pay Maine’s welfare debt to its hospitals and get Mainers back to work.
Democrats and Republicans authorized the VLA Committee to create a committee bill to pay off Maine’s hospital debt. Nowhere in the authorization was Medicaid expansion included or mentioned.
Democrats and Republicans were in agreement as of three weeks ago that the hospital debt should be paid off and that a liquor revenue bond is the way to do it. Democrats are not “horse-trading” with Republicans, they’re poised to sacrifice a bipartisan jobs bill that they support in order to coerce Republicans into supporting welfare expansion. This is not a case of each party giving a little.
Without any notice to Republicans leadership or committee Republicans, Democrats in the HHS Committee forced a vote on a letter to VLA before HHS even had a chance to read it. The letter told VLA to merge the Medicaid expansion bill with the hospital payment bill.
- From the Sun Journal: “Hamper said his committee was delivered the proposed amendment and not even given time to read it before a vote was called. “We were told, ‘Let’s adopt it and then we can discuss it,’ Washington-styled politics,” Hamper said.”
VLA members were forced to incorporate a piece of legislation that is outside their jurisdiction and with only 24 hours to consider such a massively complex topic as Medicaid expansion. It was clear from debate in VLA that Democrats—and indeed Republicans—on that committee were not prepared to make an informed decision on Medicaid expansion.
After tonight, Democrats may be able to say that they passed Medicaid expansion…
- But they’ll never be able to say they enacted it
- They’ll never be able to say it was done in the light of day
- They’ll never be able to pretend that their actions were in good faith
In sum, the Democrats
- Practiced Washington-style, Pelosi politics in forcing a hugely complex and controversial bill through the committee process;
- Showed complete disregard for the views of the minority party and the Governor in unilaterally forcing through a bill they knew lacked the support to pass;
- Made good policymaking take a backseat to the liberal ideological agenda of Democratic leadership;
- Scuttled the one major piece of bipartisan legislation that would put Mainers to work now;
- Created severe backlash and uncertainty among some of the state’s largest employers, including hospitals and building contractors who now have their hopes dashed of seeing $700 million pour into the Maine economy.
Medicaid expansion is not “free”
- DHHS estimates that expansion as envisioned by this bill will cost the General Fund:
- $70 million in FY 16-17
- $102 million in FY 18-19; and
- $150 million in FY 20-21 and $75 million each year thereafter at 90% matching.
- That’s $400 million in Maine taxpayers’ money in the seven years after the “free” three year period.
- These numbers assume that the enrollment estimates will prove to be accurate. We all know how that goes. Last time, over twice as many childless adults as expected enrolled… many of them simply switching from private insurance to Medicaid. And with coverage now being mandatory under the ACA, people have an even greater incentive to enroll, furthering the potential for enrollment estimates being left in the dust.
- Even within the three years of 100% matching, the state will have to hire 93 new bureaucrats at a cost of $7 million per biennium.
- The federal government can reduce the matching rate at any time. One Congress cannot bind another.
- The mandatory components of Obamacare require $10 million in additional state spending in the current budget, with or without expansion.
Maine’s current Medicaid program is exceptionally generous compared to other states’ and has grown rapidly in recent years
- MaineCare spending as a percentage of state General Fund spending has doubled over the past 15 years, increasing from 13% to over 25%, crowding out funding for schools, roads, law enforcement, and other critical government services.
- From 2002 to 2012, MaineCare enrollment increased from 200,000 to 338,000. Compare to New Hampshire at 160,000.
- Maine already has the 3rd highest Medicaid enrollment in the nation, at 27% of our population. The New England average is 18% and the US average is 19%. Maine already puts half again more people on Medicaid than the average state or even its neighbors.
- This expansion would mean that about 1/3 of Mainers are dependent on the government for health care.
- Our other welfare consumption is staggering: 3rd for TANF, 2nd for food stamps, and 2nd in the nation for welfare spending as a percentage of overall state spending. Democrats have turned Maine into a welfare state; it is time to reverse the trend, not double-down on dependency.
- Some may say that our Medicaid enrollment/spending is high because we’re an old state demographically, but we actually have a higher rank for Medicaid enrollment among those younger than 65—we rank 2nd in the nation for Medicaid enrollment of non-seniors.
Maine’s 2001 expansion of coverage to non-disabled childless adults up to 100% of poverty level was a costly disaster:
- Democrats predicted that 11,000 childless adults would enroll, but the estimates were smashed when 17,000 enrolled within 14 months and the state eventually capped enrollment when the figure reached 25,000 after only two years. Consider that when the Democrats “estimate” that 70,000 will enroll under expansion. This is why they call MaineCare a “black hole” for money.
- Proponents of the last expansion said that it would reduce the number of uninsured, but from 2001 to 2011, the number of uninsured Mainers stayed roughly the same, dropping slightly from 136,000 to 133,000.
- Thousands simply dropped their private insurance and enrolled in MaineCare.
- Who are the MaineCare childless adults? About 60% are males, 75% are single, 60% are under 45 years old, all are under 65, and all are able-bodied (non-disabled).
MaineCare expansion has created competing priorities to its core mission.
· While we consider putting 70,000 more able-bodied, young, single males on medical welfare, 3,100 disabled and elderly Mainers remain on the waitlist for services. Medicaid was created for them, not for able-bodied single males.
Democrats say that expansion will reduce charity care, or uncompensated care at hospitals.
Democrats say that expansion will reduce expensive ER care, but studies show that Medicaid recipients use the ER just as often as those who are uninsured. Coverage does not change behavior.
The Federal Government’s promises of matching funds should not be relied upon.
- Federal matching rates (FMAP) have been reduced from 75% to 57% over the years.
- FMAP will be reduced by another 1% on October 1.
- There are no promises about what will happen after 10 years of Medicaid expansion. The 90% match does not go on forever.
Heritage and Kaiser Studies
- They are one in the same. The Heritage Foundation simply recycled Kaiser’s numbers.
- When predicting savings, Heritage itself said that the savings are “highly speculative” because they assume that charity care will be reduced.
- Heritage even pointed directly at Maine, saying that our experience with expansion shows that charity care is not reduced as a result.
- The underlying Kaiser study is flawed in that it does not use state-specific data (Kaiser admits this flaw in its study).
- What should we rely upon, a flawed nationwide study, or our own DHHS, which says expansion will cost Maine taxpayers—the General Fund—$70 million in FY 16-17 and $102 million in FY 18-19?
There are still unanswered questions
- DHHS must still complete an audit, which will take another month, before we even have confirmation that we will receive 100% for the first three years. Federal HHS Commissioner Sebelius has said 100% is “likely,” not certain.
- The Governor has not completed negotiations with the federal government. He could get a better deal, and that’s worth a chance at savings Maine taxpayers tens or even hundreds of millions of dollars.
There are alternatives for the population being considered
- All of Maine’s 39 hospitals provide free care to those below 150% of the federal poverty level; 24 of them provide free care below 200%.
- The Obamacare exchange will provide subsidized private health insurance to those making 100-400% of the federal poverty level. Click here for a calculator that determines the out-of-pocket amount. For example, a 30 year old adult at 120% of federal poverty level would pay only $5 per weekly paycheck for a “Silver” plan, and nothing for a “Bronze” (catastrophic) plan.
- Arkansas is implementing an expansion model that relies on the federally-subsidized insurance exchanges instead of a massive expansion of their state Medicaid program. This is an option worth considering.
- Tennessee and Indiana have proposed alternatives to the feds that expand coverage using state insurance programs other than Medicaid.
- Utah has commissioned a study group similar to that proposed in Rep. Fredette’s floor amendment to study the cost of expansion as proposed by the feds and alternatives to the feds’ proposal.
Because we have unanswered questions and alternatives worth exploring, the House should pass the Minority report to free the hospital payment bill from the Medicaid expansion bill, and consider the amendment to create a study group to explore the issue of expansion further.