LETTERS

Monday, March 24, 2014: Medicaid expansion, South Thomaston fire truck, Elliotsville Plantation

Posted March 23, 2014, at 11:32 a.m.

Refocus assistance

Maine’s nursing homes are in crisis. A bipartisan commission found that the state’s Medicaid program pays them $29.4 million below what they’re owed. We saw the crisis in Calais with the closure of the nursing home there in 2012.

About 68 percent of nursing home residents pay for their care with Medicaid, and the chronic underfunding undermines these facilities’ ability to provide the food and shelter our elderly neighbors so desperately need.

So why are we even considering expanding welfare coverage to over 70,000 able-bodied adults under Obamacare, especially when most of them can already get covered if they just chip in about $5-10 per month on the exchange?

Not only are our nursing homes in crisis, but there are 3,100 severely disabled Mainers on the waitlist for services. We cannot take care of the truly needy for whom Medicaid was established if we continue to throw everybody onto the program.

We just paid off a $750 million hospital debt caused by past expansions, and the current Obamacare proposal would cost millions in just the first three years and up to $800 million in the first decade, according to the Alexander Group. That’s money we can’t use to pay our nursing homes what they’re owed and ensure our parents and grandparents have the care they need.

Fortunately, we have a proposal to start to fix the nursing home crisis. My committee voted to approve LD 1776, a bill that would close one-third of the funding shortfall to our nursing homes, but it still faces full votes in the Legislature and needs funding from the budget committee.

Please call your state legislators and urge them to reject Medicaid expansion and support our nursing homes by voting “yes” on LD 1776.

Rep. Richard Malaby

R-Hancock

Want or need

An article to spend up to $350,000 to purchase a new fire truck, the need for which has not been sufficiently demonstrated by the fire department, is on the South Thomaston town warrant for the annual town meeting scheduled for March 25.

The fire chief is proposing to replace one of three fleet vehicles capable of pumping water at fire scenes that has yet to reach its subjectively suggested replacement period.

In a review of the maintenance records for the fire truck proposed for replacement — obtained as a result of Freedom of Access requests — no evidence of irreparable mechanical failure or malfunction was found to have been recorded.

In fact, although some opinion exists that this kind of vehicle be replaced on a 30-year cycle, in Maine there are no adopted standards based on National Fire Protection Association guidelines, or from the Maine Bureau of Labor Standards, requiring this type of replacement to be done.

As long as a fire truck meets operational and safety requirements, it can continue to be used. All of the documents obtained indicate that the fire truck in question can still meet those requirements.

The town has owned and operated the fire truck for only 25 years, but its mileage and hours of pump use is less than what might be experienced at an active fire department in a large metropolitan city in a period of five years or less.

The proposal for a new fire truck is, at best, premature and, at worst, an unnecessary and unjustified expense that will satisfy a “want” as opposed to a “need.”

Wayne Brown

South Thomaston

Horseback fun

Last fall a group of friends and I had the pleasure of horseback riding in the beautiful Mt. Katahdin area. We spent hours enjoying the fall foliage and the company of each other and our mounts.

While there, we stayed at Summit Farm on Grindstone Road riding the marked trails by our host and guide, Will Pelletier. The trails were well-marked and challenging for us as experienced riders. Some had bridges, water crossings and very thick brush.

During our visit, Pelletier introduced us to Mark and Susan Adams, recreation managers for the lands owned by Elliotsville Plantation Inc. east of Baxter State Park.

While visiting the Adams, we were invited to be “test riders” for the new Katahdin Woods and Waters Recreation Area Loop Road. The 17-mile ride offered beautiful views of Mt. Katahdin. These are the lands EPI proposes to donate to become a new national park.

We had a successful first ride checking out the newly renovated trails and bridges, all the while enjoying the beautiful mountain in the background.

I am so excited that horses will be allowed to use this vast area in the upcoming fall season. I can’t wait to get back up to the new Katahdin woods and recreation area for another great ride.

Susan French

Lincoln

Medicaid expansion

With the combination of expanded Medicaid and the Affordable Care Act, there is finally the potential for affordable health care to be available to every resident in Maine. By not participating in expanded Medicaid, Maine denies coverage to a large and needy part of our population. This expansion would not hurt the state budget as it is covered almost entirely by the federal government.

The many people who do not qualify for Medicaid and are not adequately covered by employer insurance have the opportunity, until March 31, to obtain affordable, high-quality health insurance through the ACA.

My son is typical of many recent college graduates who are employed part time, on internships, etc. If they are under 26, the ACA allows them to be covered under their parents’ insurance. If not, they now can purchase insurance at very low rates thanks to the substantial rebates available for low-income individuals and families. My son got excellent insurance, with low deductibles, for about $40 per month — much less than he had been paying for poorer coverage in the individual market.

If you are underinsured or uninsured, you have until March 31 to take advantage of this opportunity. I urge you to check it out at www.healthcare.gov. You have nothing to lose and much to gain.

Please also consider contacting your state legislators to urge them to support Medicaid expansion for Maine.

Susan Conard

Northport

 

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