A consortium of business leaders, health care providers and a state politician joined Mayor Michael Brennan this morning in speaking out against proposed cuts in the DHHS budget that Governor Paul LePage is pressuring the state legislature to pass. The Mayor said it is one of the few press conferences he has called since his recent election because it is such an important subject for the 65,000 who stand to lose access to their health care. And that doesn’t include those who will lose their jobs in the health care field.
The Mayor said that the emergency room at Mercy Hospital, State Street, was the appropriate place for this press conference because it “will become the center of health care for those who lose access” to health care. Those who can’t afford health care will be forced to come to the emergency rooms in both of Portland hospitals. These cuts will cost Maine Medical Center, Mercy Hospital, social service agencies and non-profits $20 million. The cost to city programs will be more than $2 million. Seventy percent of MaineCare funding goes to 25% of the population which includes the elderly, disabled, handicapped and children.
By threatening to close public schools early this year, if legislators don’t pass his budget, Mayor Brennan said it’s unfortunate that the Governor is “pitting the education of our children against the health care needs” of this vulnerable population. Brennan said that Superintendent of Schools Morse has assured him that Portland schools will not close under these circumstances. “The problem is not as severe as the Governor has said. There are ways to balance the budget. In the past, the state legislatore haas done that. It’s a manufactured crises created by the Governor.”
United Way of Greater Portland president Susan McCormick said there are better alternative than eliminating MaineCare eligibility for thousands of Maine people; the focus should be on reducing costs with high volume/high cost users. Approximately 55% of MaineCare costs come from 5% of its members – most with chronic health conditions. By focusing on managint their care, they can achieve better health outcomes and reduce costs overall.”
State Representative Peter Stuckey (D), who serves on the Health & Human Services Committee said democrats are very opposed to the cuts. “They are happening in a vacuum. The cost shifts are a problem. Somebody else is going to have to take responsibility for the consequences of this budget cutting. The receipients of the cuts cannot take full responsibility for their medical care because of poor choices in their past or for whatever reason. What do you do?