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Public Statements

Issue Position: Healthcare

Issue Position

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Location: Unknown

1. Allow Competition Among Insurance Companies to Lower Premium Costs.
2. Reduce Spending on Social Services to National Averages.
3. Provide Incentives for Healthy, Independent Behavior.

Our State is strengthened when our friends, neighbors, and co-workers are healthy. Businesses look for a healthy workforce because of less absenteeism and lower insurance premiums. A less expensive and more effective healthcare system will help attract businesses and jobs.

Unfortunately, our state government has created a private and public healthcare system which is broken. Many individuals and businesses paying for their own health care can no longer afford the costs. Our less-fortunate citizens receiving health care paid by Maine taxpayers are given no incentives to control the costs. The system is no longer fiscally sustainable. It's a key reason why businesses and jobs avoid Maine.

Our state government spends more on health care than any other service except education. Maine taxpayers will spend $1.8 billion on health care in the proposed biannual budget, 32 cents of every dollar.[1] Difficult decisions can no longer be avoided.

"Our state government spends more on health care than any other service except education."

Our taxpayer-funded Medicaid program, called MaineCare, was created to provide a healthcare safety net for the poor and disabled. This extremely expensive program consumes roughly 72% of all healthcare spending.[2] Over the years our elected officials have allowed the enrollment of an ever-widening group of able-bodied citizens. Also, the program has expanded to include services such as housing, meals, transportation, and other non-traditional health care services.

Today, MaineCare enrolls approximately 275,000 people, 22% of our population, the highest rate in the country.[3] The generous benefits and easy enrollment are making our State a magnet for non-Mainers seeking unfair access to taxpayer-funded services. We can no longer afford this. Difficult decisions must be made regarding who can enroll and what services are covered. Otherwise, our taxes will continue to rise and jobs will go elsewhere.

"Competent management by our state government can provide better health care to our less-fortunate MaineCare patients at less cost to taxpayers."

Competent management by our state government can provide better health care to our less-fortunate MaineCare patients at less cost to taxpayers. These fellow citizens have a responsibility to take good care of themselves in return for taxpayer-funded health care. Chronic illnesses such as asthma, obesity, and diabetes are preventable and/or treatable. MaineCare beneficiaries should be required to be treated by family physicians for long-term primary care, rather than extremely expensive hospital emergency rooms for common ailments. Wyoming has introduced a disease management program for 7,800 disabled healthcare beneficiaries. Taxpayer costs have fallen while services have improved.[4]

The huge, expensive MaineCare program is a primary reason why private healthcare insurance premiums are 2-3 times the costs than in neighboring New Hampshire.[5] Low payments to doctors and hospitals for providing services to MaineCare patients force those same doctors/hospitals to charge uncommonly high prices to patients with private insurance. Insurance companies are then forced to charge inflated prices for those private policies, or leave Maine altogether. There are 9 insurance companies writing individual healthcare policies in Connecticut, 11 in New Hampshire, 21 in Massachusetts, and only 3 in Maine.[6] This lack of competition leads to incredibly expensive private insurance policies.

"A fiscally sustainable strategy will remove a nagging impediment to doing business in Maine."

Maine's primary welfare program is called Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). It provides cash and other assistance to low-income, able-bodied families. It sets no time limit for receiving the benefits. It imposes no strict requirements to find a job or further an education as preconditions to receiving the taxpayer assistance. There is no period of residency required to start receiving benefits.

Many states, such as Wisconsin, took advantage of the flexibility provided in the 1996 federal welfare law to reform their programs. Caseloads plunged as able-bodied adults were required to demonstrate tangible evidence of improving their lives, and those of their children, in order to receive benefits.[7] Maine has adopted no such reforms to encourage independence and self-sufficiency. The cycle of dependency continues at great cost to our less-fortunate citizens, and to the taxpayers who foot the bill. We must reform this program for the sake of all Mainers.

Sound management and tough choices can improve our public and private healthcare systems, and lower the cost to individuals and businesses. A fiscally sustainable strategy will remove a nagging impediment to doing business in Maine. Our workers and their families will benefit.

Footnotes
[1] Maine Governor's Office
[2] Maine Governor's Office
[3] Kaiser Family Foundation; United States Census Bureau
[4] McKinsey & Company report, Maine Governor's Office
[5] Maine Heritage Policy Center
[6] Maine Heritage Policy Center
[7] The Heritage Foundation


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