We need MaineCare
Maine has thousands of children, elderly, pregnant women and people with disabilities who need MaineCare to stay in good health. This program is funded with a combination of state and federal dollars, so these folks have access to health care even though they cannot afford to pay for private insurance. This is important because it is less expensive for us all when everyone has access to health care. Although legislators made devastating cuts in the state dollars supporting this program last session, it is still critically important. It pays for preventive care for children, long-term care for the elderly and disabled and prenatal care for pregnant women.
Unfortunately, Congress is seriously looking at permanently cutting back the federal share of Medicaid (MaineCare in our state). This would cripple Maine’s progress toward a healthy future. If we allow Congress to think such changes are acceptable, Maine will have to come up with even more money to avoid cutting benefits or throwing people out of the program. Since Maine’s finances are already hurting, I urge everyone to call Sen. Susan Collins at 622-8414 and Sen. Olympia Snowe at 800-432-1599 to say, “No cuts to Medicaid!”
Our new Hampden Academy is a good example of a sound public investment: it will serve not only students but the whole community with state-of-the-art facilities for years to come. But it’s also, sadly, the kind of public good that’s under attack these days as governments at all levels cut budgets. While public finances have to be maintained responsibly, fiscal prudence doesn’t just mean controlling spending. It also means raising adequate revenue.
Congress is engaged in a great debate over deficits, spending and taxes. President Barack Obama and Republican leaders have already agreed to $1 trillion in spending cuts over the next decade. Now there needs to be an equivalent agreement on revenue increases.
At the end of this year, tax cuts passed in the Bush administration will expire. Because, in our still-fragile economic recovery, the spending power of the middle class should not be impaired, the cuts should be extended for households making less than $250,000 a year, which is 98 percent of all American families. But the cuts should be allowed to expire for the remaining 2 percent of households, those with annual incomes above a quarter million dollars.
This tax change will raise a trillion dollars over the next 10 years, which, combined with the already-agreed-upon spending cuts, will get us halfway to the target of $4 trillion in deficit reduction. This is the kind of sensible solution Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins should vote for and advocate for among their colleagues.
What do the patients win?
Maine Department of Health and Human Services Commissioner Mary Mayhew signed on the dotted line, and Davita now owns Eastern Maine Medical Center dialysis assets. EMMC won $17 million tax-free dollars. Davita won all of EMMC’s dialysis patients and the profits they can generate for the corporation.
What did the patients win in this decision? My hopes for patients are these:
They will continue to be treated with respect and dignity, and there will be no issues with safety and quality of care. They will always have access to dialysis treatment in their region, with no dismissals without cause or refusal to treat because of inability to pay.
They will be encouraged and empowered to proactively participate in their own health care and be at the hub of all decisions regarding their care.
If they do have problems, their caregivers within the clinics will respond quickly and appropriately to their concerns. If not, quick resolution of problems will be provided by the ESRD network.
Their caregivers will provide them with the appropriate staffing mix and RN-to-patient ratios to ensure safe, high-quality care.
Their medical supplies and medications will be of excellent quality and readily available.
Their health status will remain optimum for their condition.
They will have an effective patient support council with state or community oversight.
That money and profits will never become the priority of the clinic.
Patients and their excellent health care outcomes must remain the priority of your caregivers and your dialysis clinic, no matter who owns it.
Kathy Day, RN
I want to thank David Trahan and my friend and former colleague Gerry Lavigne for sharing their views on coyote control and deer management.
Although I don’t agree 100 percent with their positions, we share a common goal of restoring northern Maine’s deer herd. During debates, it’s important to acknowledge common ground. It’s my fervent hope that the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine will advocate deer-yard protection with the same passion it promotes predator control. Without adequate deer winter shelter in northern Maine, Old Man Winter will continue to suppress deer numbers well below levels beneficial to hunters, sporting lodge owners and Maine’s rural economy. On that point, I think we all can agree.
As a university professor teaching ethics and philosophy, my students and I speak often about the role of government in our lives and especially about taxes. Many of them strike the standard line about it being their money. But usually by the end of the semester, we have convinced each other not only of the utilitarian argument for taxes, that the prime ethical concern of society should be about maximizing the good and minimizing the pain, but also of the critical necessity of paying higher taxes.
In 1960, at the end of a period of rapid growth in America (which included the creation of the interstate system, the space program and the formation of the comfortably wealthy middle class), those in the highest tax bracket paid close to 90 percent. This trend continued until Ronald Reagan’s election, when the bracket was lowered to 70 percent, and the downward trend has continued to this day.
It is true that our current level of spending is unsustainable, but it is wrong to think that it is the spending alone. Rather it is the lack of revenue generated in the form of taxes. Last year Republican Mitt Romney (as poster child for the rich) paid an effective income tax of just 13.9 percent on more than $40 million earned. It cannot be wrong to ask those who have claimed so much, through hard work for some and inheritance and privilege for others, to pay at a progressively higher tax rate. Indeed, we must.