February 26

New MaineCare expansion plan seeks consensus in Augusta

A key Republican says his proposal is bipartisan, covers 60,000 more people, provides an economic boost, takes advantage of federal funding and includes cost controls through managed care.

By Steve Mistler smistler@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

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Assistant Senate Republican Leader Roger Katz, right, and Sen. Thomas Saviello, discuss details of their proposal to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act while implementing other significant changes to the program, Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2014, at the State House in Augusta, Maine. The expansion would be paired with a plan to implement managed care in the Medicaid program to try to curb costs. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)

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Democrats have the majority in the Legislature, but they don’t have enough votes to override a veto by Gov. Paul LePage, a staunch opponent of expansion. A compromise proposed by Katz last year fell three votes short of overriding LePage’s veto in the House.

Since then, Katz and several other Republicans, including Sen. Thomas Saviello of Wilton, have been working with Republican lawmakers to forge a new proposal. Katz and Saviello said the amendment proposed Tuesday is the product of those discussions.

“This didn’t have to be so partisan,” Katz said. “The proposal we have shows that.”

But the bipartisan approach did little to dissuade critics of expansion. Adrienne Bennett, spokeswoman for LePage, said the bill is another example of how “liberals are playing politics with the state’s financial future.”

Bennett questioned the authenticity of Democrats’ support for the amendment, noting that interest groups aligned with the Democratic Party have often opposed managed care.

House Minority Leader Kenneth Fredette, R-Newport, said, “Obamacare’s welfare expansion would be so devastating for Maine’s economic future that we simply cannot support it or anything that’s attached to it.”


Proponents of managed care say it improves the efficiency of Medicaid and saves money while installing benchmarks for health outcomes. Opponents worry that managed care can lead providers to deny care if they’re close to the payment caps set by the state.

Democratic Gov. John Baldacci began laying the groundwork for managed care, but LePage abandoned the pursuit after succeeding Baldacci in 2011. Last year, Health and Human Services Commissioner Mary Mayhew testified against Katz’s managed care proposal. Mayhew said it would undercut Medicaid payment reforms that her department was pursuing.

At a legislative committee meeting last month, Stefanie Nadeau, director of MaineCare services for the DHHS, questioned whether the state would save the $40 million that Katz projected when he proposed managed care last year. Because of its rural nature and sparse population, Maine may not be as conducive for savings through managed care as other states, Nadeau said.

National data shows that managed care in Medicaid is becoming more common as states try to control spending on a program that accounted for 23.6 percent of total state expenditures in fiscal year 2011, according to the National Association of State Budget Officers.

The Kaiser Family Foundation reported that the percentage of Medicaid recipients enrolled in some form of managed care increased from 57 in 2002 to 66 in 2012. Managed care is used in at least 45 states, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

The Kaiser Foundation also found that savings through managed care produced mixed results, and that significant savings were largely dependent on how states crafted their plans. The key savings drivers, the report said, were reduced emergency room use and improved use of primary care physicians.

Maine would have to apply for a waiver from the federal government to switch to managed care. Dr. David Howes, president of Martin’s Point Health Care, said states’ increased migration to managed care has made such requests more routine. Martin’s Point participates in managed care programs through contracts with Medicare, the federal health program for the elderly, and the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Katz said the Medicaid expansion debate has been polarized, with Democrats favoring expansion as proposed through the Affordable Care Act and a core group of Republicans, including LePage, opposing it outright.

“Some of us think there’s a third way,” Katz said. “It will expand Medicaid but at the same time institute major management reforms.”

Steve Mistler can be contacted at 791-6345 or at:


Twitter: @stevemistler


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