LePage keeps saying “no” as more GOP governors expand coverage

A doctor treating a patient. Creative Commons: World Bank Photo, 2013

A doctor treating a patient. Creative Commons: World Bank Photo, 2013

Gov. LePage’s stance on health policy has left Mainers scared, including cancer survivors.

Kaiser Health News tells the story of one, 61 year old Laura Tasheiko.

She’s unlike the image LePage and his allies portray of the person who would benefit from Medicaid expansion, the youngish man with a moustache, smoking a cigarette.

“It’s nerve-wracking,” said Tasheiko, who like many working poor in this rugged state makes ends meet by raising laying hens, heating her home with a woodstove and eating and canning vegetables she raises in her garden.

“Cancer doesn’t just stop — it’s not over. But my health coverage is over.”

LePage’s policy position is hurting Mainers and our hospitals.

Gail MacLean, 64, who boards horses on her farm in Gray, 20 minutes from Portland, was also cut off of MaineCare because she doesn’t have dependent children. Although she is hardy, she said, “It’s one thing after another on a farm.”

In early June, MacLean was fixing one of the barn’s Dutch doors when a gust of wind blew the top part of the door shut and it slammed into her head. When her headache didn’t go away, she saw a doctor at Care Partners, an affiliate of Maine Medical Center in Portland, that charged her $10, and a CT scan was ordered, the cost of which will likely be borne by the hospital.

Meanwhile, hospitals are already hurting because of declining government reimbursements, which were supposed to be offset by payments from the newly insured. In Maine, the decision to trim the Medicaid rolls is straining resources for charity care.

That’s already had an impact on the bottom line, said Maine Hospital Association spokesman Jeffrey Austin. In a normal year, about one-third of the association’s 36 acute-care hospitals finish the year in the red, but 24 had negative margins last year.

Meanwhile, more states with GOP governors have decided to expand Medicaid

Among the new expansion states is Pennsylvania. Their Republican governor is so conservative and ideological that he hired Gary Alexander before Gov. LePage.

But now Pennsylvania is embarking on a change in course.

600,000 Pennsylvanians will gain coverage in a plan negotiated with the Obama administration.

Like Arkansas and New Hampshire, Pennsylvania will rely on private insurance. They will also provide incentives for healthy behavior and can charge small premiums starting the second year of the program.

Now a publicity push is about to begin.

The national advocacy group Enroll America plans to ramp up Chase, its phone-call program that reminds people about enrolling in health insurance. Enroll America found that people were 25 percent more likely to buy insurance on the Obamacare marketplace when they received three follow-up calls. The group plans to use the same strategy for people it has identified as eligible for Medicaid. [source]

Pennsylvanians in the “coverage gap” — too poor to buy private insurance themselves but ineligible for federal subsidies to buy through the ACA exchange — will now get insurance.

Other states with GOP governors now making moves to expand include Tennessee, Utah and Wyoming.

This morning Gov. LePage attended a fundraiser in New Jersey with Gov. Christie, who has expanded Medicaid already.

Meanwhile, Mainers in the coverage gap are still stranded. LePage hasn’t shown policy creativity to craft a compromise to cover them and hasn’t demonstrated any interest in doing so.

Amy Fried

About Amy Fried

Amy Fried loves Maine's sense of community and the wonderful mix of culture and outdoor recreation. She loves politics in three ways: as an analytical political scientist, a devoted political junkie and a citizen who believes politics matters for people's lives. Fried is Professor of Political Science at the University of Maine. Her views do not reflect those of her employer or any group to which she belongs.