Health Care for 70,000 Mainers – Efforts to Close the Coverage Gap Continue

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Maine can still accept federal health care funds that will provide health coverage to nearly 70,000 people with low income in the state.  Most of the people who would qualify work, but work in jobs that do not offer health insurance or don’t pay enough to help workers afford coverage on their own.  These are often workers that serve us food, care for our children, clean our offices, or provide care to our family members or neighbors.  People who would benefit also include 3,000 veterans and about 1,000 of their family members.  All of these Maine people would be eligible to receive health coverage that would be paid for almost completely with federal funds.

LD 633, a bill carried over from the 2015 legislative session, was recently presented to the Joint Standing Committee on Health and Human Services.  The bill provides comprehensive health coverage for people with low income in our state ($16,395 in annual gross income for an individual and $27,821 for a family of three).  Coverage would be provided through MaineCare for those with incomes below the poverty level, while those with slightly higher incomes would receive private market insurance.  They would also receive wrap around benefits and help with premiums and copayments.

This bill that gives the go-ahead to accept federal funds will help Maine in many ways.  More Maine people will have access to the health care they need to prevent and reduce cancer, diabetes and other chronic diseases.  People who qualify for coverage will have better access to mental health and substance abuse services.  Finally, it will provide badly needed resources for our hospitals, community health centers and other health care providers.

States that have accepted the federal funds have achieved greater health security for thousands of their residents.  Those states are also seeing real savings in their state budgets.  Based on the actual experience of other states, it is estimated that Maine would have saved $27 million in this year alone if the state had accepted the federal funds. (For More Information).  Maine would see immediate savings in state-funded mental health and substance abuse services; federal funds could replace state funds to pay for care for uninsured Maine people struggling to recover from these conditions.

Accepting federal funds would result in savings to Maine’s criminal justice and corrections system as well.  Other states are using the federal funds to replace state expenses for costly hospital care for prisoners and to help those released from jail or prison.  Many of these individuals would benefit from improved access to mental health and substance abuse care, which in turn can reduce reentry and drug-related incarceration.  (For More Information).

Finally, these federal health care funds will improve Maine’s economy.  They will bring an at least an additional $250 million into the state each year and help create 3,000 good-paying jobs across the state – about half of which would be in the health care field.

You can help Maine Equal Justice Partners improve access to health coverage.  Watch for action alerts about the status of LD 633 along with information about how you can help.  For more information on how you can get involved call Ann Woloson at 626-7058, Ext. 210.

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