June 18, 2018
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Consider these MaineCare recipients as state looks at changes

Renee Ordway
By Renee Ordway, Special to the BDN

Am I the only one anticipating a baby boom?

Right or wrong, and of course it’s wrong, if childless adults in their 20s and 30s are faced with losing their MaineCare or having a baby in order to keep that health care — which will they choose?

It’s just one of the many questions and concerns tossed into the chaotic debate over MaineCare, access to affordable health care and Maine’s welfare dependence in general.

Here is just one true example I’m familiar with: A 20-year-old woman went on MaineCare when she lost both of her parents at a young age. She graduated from high school as an honor student and went off to further her education and was able to retain her MaineCare coverage into her early 20s while completing her education and working part-time.

She receives no other federal or state aid.

She pays a small amount of rent to live with a relative and uses most of her paycheck from her part-time job to buy food for herself and gas for her 15-year-old car.

If the plan is passed she will lose her access to health care, which now includes annual gynecological exams and general health care visits. Over the years her MaineCare has paid for therapy she has undergone to try to come to terms with the tragedy she witnessed when she was 11 years old.

You may or may not agree that she should be eligible now that she is over 18. That’s probably worthy of discussion.

There is a young man in a similar situation. He dropped out of high school, dropped out of a MaineCare-funded drug rehab program after more than five months of residential treatment, is now 18 with a pregnant teenage girlfriend, living in a government-subsidized apartment and receiving food stamps.

Under LePage’s plan, he will continue to receive his MaineCare benefits — apparently for no other reason than he was able to get a girl pregnant.

Now there are countless flaws with our system. No doubt about it and I admire the LePage administration’s determination to take it on.

Someone has to. It should have been done years ago and in a systematic and, most importantly, safe manner.

Now we are faced with the frightening aspect of the state pulling the plug and leaving desperately ill and terrified people facing life-and-death situations.

Right now both sides, Republicans and Democrats, are so busy threatening and bullying one another that any common sense, any attempt to use intellect and reason, has become lost in the chaos.

The media eats it up. There are countless sad and life-threatening stories to tell — they could fill the pages each day.

But our numbers, our dependence on MaineCare and other forms of state and federal welfare systems, cannot be ignored.

There have been significant abuses of the MaineCare and food stamp and home subsidy programs for decades that have slid by.

Those who work in the system say they are not staffed well enough to investigate all of the fraud allegations.

Last time I checked, the state of Maine had a pretty good health care plan. Perhaps the entire system should be beefed up — perhaps by hiring some additional qualified and motivated workers — to investigate those cases of fraud, to do the real work necessary to ensure that the money devoted to those systems is put to its very best use and to restore the taxpayers’ confidence in the state’s ability to police itself.

They’d be earning a decent paycheck, be covered under a decent health care plan, and hopefully reduce the waste we are now enduring.

There are some bright minds and generous spirits in our state, the medical field, the social welfare field, the government field and the business field.

When the yelling and the threatening finally stop, perhaps someone will see that it is time to work together for substantive systemic changes that don’t include putting the idea into the mind of an unemployed and undereducated 20-year-old that the best chance at good health care is to breed.

Have feedback? Want to know more? Send us ideas for follow-up stories.

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