Day 3 of Health and Human Services (HHS) hearings explored the Governor’s plan to cut rates for Critical Access Hospitals (CAH), outpatient mental health services, drug assistance for the elderly, cuts to physician reimbursements and other items.
Additional testimony from yesterday’s hearings on General Assistance and help for new Mainers is below.
Reimbursement cuts and slashed drug coverage
Once again, members of the public turned out in force to oppose the Governor’s cuts. Committee members noted that the Department is not facing a shortfall, these reductions are not strictly necessary at this time.
Providers of hospital affiliated mental health services, the only option in many areas testified that they will be forced to close their doors if these cuts are approved.
The Maine Hospital Association condemned the cuts. The Maine Medical Association testified in support of a plan to continue with state only dollars a previously federal enhancement of reimbursement to primary care doctors.
Other members of the public criticized the Governor’s plan as well. Members of the committees noted that the majority of the drug and reimbursement cuts are simply ideas that have been rejected over and over again. They further lamented the necessity of forcing elderly and infirm individuals to make the trek to Augusta to defend their assistance every two years.
1:00 PM- HHS committee, Substance abuse & mental health
10:00 AM- HHS committee, Developmental disabilities and brain injury
1:00 AM- HHS committee, Children’s services & children’s mental health, Payments to providers, departmental administration
Here is today’s release from leadership and the Chairs & Leads.
For Immediate Release
March 4, 2015
Contact: Ann Kim [Rotundo] 233-1838; Ericka Dodge [Valentino] 232-5892
Public stands against cuts to vital programs for seniors and disabled
Governor’s budget would harm poor seniors who need help with medicine, health care
AUGUSTA – The governor’s plan to cut services for vulnerable seniors and individuals with disabilities met with strong public opposition Wednesday during public hearings before the Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee and the Health and Human Services Committee.
Two proposals in the governor’s state budget – cuts to the Medicaid Savings Plan and the Drugs of the Elderly Program – drew particularly intense criticism. Both programs assist the most vulnerable Mainers. MSP helps low-income seniors and individuals with disabilities with the costs of their health care, such as doctor visits, preventative care, ambulance services, outpatient care and, in some cases, with prescriptions and deductibles. DEL helps very poor seniors – those under 185 percent of the federal poverty level, or $21,774.50 for a household of one – pay for their medicines.
An estimated 40,000 elderly and individuals with disabilities – the most vulnerable of Maine’s citizens – would be harmed by the governor’s proposals.
“These Mainers are grappling, as they do each year, with the crushing everyday costs of buying food, heating their homes and other everyday living expenses,” testified Rich Livingston, AARP Maine’s state president. “For them, the news of proposed cuts to the Medicare Savings Program and the Drugs for the Elderly Program is nothing short of devastating.”
Seniors told the committee about how those devastating cuts would affect them.
“The only income I have is my Social Security check. I just don’t have anything else,” testified Margie Higgins, 87, of Bangor. “While I recognize the need for the state to balance the budget, I do not understand how eliminating health and prescription drug coverage for elderly people is the best way to save money. I hope the state can find another solution other than to balance the budget on the backs of those who have absolutely nothing to spare.”
Robert Fennel, a 90-year-old Albion resident, has a number of serious medical conditions. He and his wife, Priscilla, 88, would no longer be eligible for MSP if the governor succeeds in his plan. The couple has a monthly income of $1,978, not enough to be able to afford a Medigap policy at $450 a month.
“I take frequent trips to the hospital and doctor visits and so it is very important that I keep my MaineCare. We would quickly face financial ruin without this help,” Fennel testified.
Democrats reaffirmed their commitment to a budget that protects the most vulnerable Mainers.
“The governor is once again creating false choices by pitting one group of vulnerable people against the other. We cannot allow the governor to force these disastrous cuts on our seniors and neighbors with disabilities,” said Rep. Peggy Rotundo, D-Lewiston, House chair of the budget-writing committee. “We could take care of all the truly vulnerable in Maine if we weren’t giving tax breaks to the wealthy as the governor has proposed.”
“As we heard today, many seniors are on fixed incomes and struggle with being able to afford their medication. They should not have to choose between their life-saving medication and their rent,” said Sen. Linda Valentino, D-Saco, who serves on the budget-writing committee. “It should not be an option for politicians to take away a program that is critical to keeping our seniors healthy and worry-free.”