We would like to thank Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins for their recent support of the extension of emergency funding for the Federal Medical Assistance Percentage, the federal funds states receive to pay for Medicaid, known in Maine as MaineCare. Together with Reps. Michael Michaud and Chellie Pingree, who voted for the FMAP extension in the House this week, our senators’ support means that Maine will receive approximately $77 million to help pay for state health programs.
Last month, we joined the Eastern Area Agency on Aging and the Maine Primary Care Association to celebrate the 45th anniversary of the law creating Medicaid and Medicare by holding a birthday party in Bangor. It was attended by more than 100 local seniors who came to learn about the new Affordable Care Act and changes to their Medicare benefits,
This funding will have a significant impact in Maine and will work toward keeping seniors healthy, making sure children and families have access to health care, and stimulating our economy with jobs in the health care sector. A vital safety net, MaineCare covers children, parents, pregnant women, people with disabilities, and the elderly, helping them to lead healthier lives and enjoy greater economic security. Many seniors rely on MaineCare to help them with their long-term care needs. For low-income elderly who need more assistance with their Medicare costs, MaineCare helps bridge the gap to provide their care.
MaineCare is largely responsible for Maine’s success in being sixth lowest in the nation for the number of uninsured — only 9.6 percent of our population is uninsured compared to 15.4 percent nationally. MaineCare picks up coverage when people in Maine lose access to employer-based health care coverage. As our state has lost manufacturing jobs with good benefits and the rising costs of health care has forced many employers to drop coverage, MaineCare has helped fill that gap. The services that MaineCare beneficiaries receive, including preventive care and chronic disease management, can help make them healthier and more productive, while also reducing their need for more expensive, acute health services over the long term.
We all benefit from covering the uninsured. When the uninsured forego regular medical care and end up in emergency rooms, hospitals pass on the cost to the rest of us through higher premiums charged by private insurance companies. By providing health coverage for thousands of people who would otherwise be uninsured, MaineCare is helping to reduce the cost for all of us.
Our senators’ votes showed tremendous courage while under enormous political pressure. This funding is critically important to Mainers who are struggling to make ends meet. We applaud their leadership and look forward to working with them in the future to make quality, affordable health care available to every person in Maine.
Joseph P. Ditré is the executive director of Consumers for Affordable Health Care. Christine B. Hastedt is the public policy director for Maine Equal Justice Partners.