Maine panel approves Medicaid expansion measure
By ALANNA DURKIN
the associated press | March 04,2014
AUGUSTA, Maine — Maine lawmakers endorsed a bill Monday that would expand Medicaid under the federal health care law and implement other significant changes in the program, sending to measure to the full House where it will likely be a source of significant contention in the coming days.
The Health and Human Services Committee voted 7-5 in favor of the bill crafted by two Republican senators, which would implement managed care in the state’s Medicaid program with aim of creating a compromise that will attract more Republican votes.
But on the committee it appeared to do just the opposite, with a Republican who voted for the expansion last year citing managed care as part of the reason she’s now opposing the bill.
“I’m still very interested in helping people and I have started helping people find insurance in other ways,” said Republican Rep. Carol McElwee from Caribou, who said her decision to now vote against the bill also has to do with her constituents’ opposition of the expansion.
Under the bill, which the full House and Senate are expected to take up this week, the state would contract with three or four organizations that would compete for Medicaid recipients and set up provider networks across state and would work to control costs by ensuring their patients get appropriate preventative care. The state would pay the organizations a fixed price per-enrollee, with the goal of providing the state more stability in the costs of the program.
The bill would also allow the state to withdraw from the expansion after three years, when the federal government begins to lower its share of the cost.
Democratic lawmakers said Monday that the ability to expand coverage to roughly 70,000 Mainers outweighs concerns they may have with the managed care provision. Rep. Drew Gattine criticized Republican Gov. Paul LePage’s administration, which has vetoed two previous expansion bills, for its staunch opposition to the measure.
“It’s really, really sad to me that the department and the administration has not budget one inch toward the center in finding a compromise,” said Gattine, a Democrat from Westbrook.
The administration recently criticized the nonpartisan Office of Fiscal and Program Review, which analyzes legislative costs, for estimating that the bill will cost about $683,520 over the first three fiscal years. The administration, which counters that the expansion will cost $84 million by 2017, says that analysis uses a lower figure for the cost for parents in the program and questions how the $5.9 million savings built into the bill will be realized.