Lawmakers Briefed On MaineCare Shortfall 

More than 365,000 Mainers are covered under MaineCare. Tuesday in Augusta lawmakers were briefed on why Governor LePage wants to significantly cut the program.LePage’s plans to slash the MaineCare program needs lawmaker approval. The team from the Department of Health and Human Services, including DHHS Commissioner Mary Mayhew, that’s been analyzing the need for those cuts, briefed lawmakers on the size of the cash flow problem in the MaineCare program. “We are, in terms of the analysis we have done to this point, we are projecting a shortfall of $123,057,882 for state fiscal year 2012,” Mayhew told lawmakers.Part of the governor’s plan would kick nearly 70,000 Mainer’s off of MaineCare, a system he calls one of the most generous medicaid programs in the country. Federal money in the form of stimulus payments and matching Medicaid funds is drying up. MaineCare, as is, is something DHHS officials say the state can’t afford. “It is through further scrutiny, not just looking backward at what our spending pattern had been, but to look at what our projections are likely to be for the remainder of the year,” Mayhew said.Democrats, like Lewiston Representative Peggy Rotundo, say the governor’s proposed cuts would turn MaineCare on its head. They feel the governor hasn’t thought about the long term effects of the cuts, both the economic toll and the human toll. “The proposals put forth by the governor would impact, in one way or another, every family in this state,” Rotundo said Tuesday. “It’s an attack on our most vulnerable. It’s an attack on our veterans. It takes services away from the elderly, from the disabled, from children.”Democrats also fear people who lose their MaineCare will opt for emergency rooms for treatment. “Hospitals then pass those costs on to those people who have health insurance, private health insurance. So all of us end up paying for people’s health care one way or another,” Rotundo said. “The services don’t go away. People still need them. So this is really about a cost shift in terms of these proposals. It’s a cost shift for those who have private health insurance and it’s a cost shift to property tax payers.”Democrats like Rotundo and Eagle Lake Representative John Martin questioned the amount of the shortfall and what caused it. Mayhew responded by saying she’s confident in the numbers her team has come up with. “My charge to this group has been to challenge every single assumption they’ve made,” Mayhew said. “To look at every single number they’ve identified through every possible lens and it’s through that exhaustive process that my confidence has increased in this shortfall analysis.”Lawmakers will hear from the public on these proposed cuts starting on Wednesday. Hundreds of people are expected to descend upon the State House to give their take on how these cuts will directly effect them.