As a clinical social worker, I am deeply concerned about the delays in the progress toward MaineCare expansion and the implications for the health of our communities. I work with people daily whose lives would dramatically improve if they had health care. Without insurance, some have to choose between eating or purchasing their diabetes or heart medications. Others choose between treatment for their opioid addiction or continued misuse. A few quit their low-pay jobs with inadequate insurance to pursue Social Security disability, in order to afford the medications and the care needed to manage their chronic diseases. Without insurance, medications, and care, a chronic disease can easily become a terminal illness. As a last resort they seek free care and frequent the emergency rooms of critical-care hospitals, many of which are in economic jeopardy.
The people of Maine passed MaineCare expansion by an 18 percent margin. The governor repeatedly states that he will not pursue MaineCare expansion due to lack of funds. The Department of Health and Human Services shows no indication that it will be submitting a state plan, which is due April 3.
Yet, the money is there. The MaineCare account currently has an $800 million surplus. A report from the Maine Office of Fiscal and Program Economics forecasts a state surplus that will provide more than enough funding for the state portion of MaineCare expansion.
The law is clear. The money is there. The health of our communities is in peril the longer we delay.