By David Farmer When voters in Maine approved the extension of Medicaid at the polls in 2017 and Governor Janet Mills implemented the extension immediately after taking office, four things happened.
By David Farmer
When voters in Maine approved the extension of Medicaid at the polls in 2017 and Governor Janet Mills implemented the extension immediately after taking office, four things happened.
The first: Thousands of people in Maine no longer had to choose between seeing a doctor when they fell ill or injured and putting food on the table.
Second, fewer people died.
A new study on medical debt, released this week by JAMA, found two other important pieces of information. Residents of states that did not expand Medicaid have more medical debt than residents of states that immediately adopted the expansion. And people in states that have been slow to embrace the expansion have more medical debt than people in states that immediately extended coverage under the Affordable Care Act.
Maine’s story of the Medicaid expansion is one of political disappointment. Year after year, time and time again, the Legislative Assembly has shown responsibility and compassion and voted to expand access to affordable, high quality care.
And time and time again, former Gov. Paul LePage has blocked implementation. Even after voters embraced the expansion through a citizens’ initiative (disclosure: I worked on the campaign), the governor refused to follow the law and allow people access to health care.
It was bad policy, and it was needlessly cruel.
This year, fortunately, the legislature and governor have made another improvement to Medicaid by ensuring that it also covers dental care.
Here’s a breakdown of the numbers.
According to the Maine Department of Health and Human Services, the expansion of Medicaid has provided nearly 78,000 people in Maine with access to health care through May 2021.
This translates to more than 15,000 people who have received treatment for an addiction disorder. About 7,000 people have received treatment for diabetes and 7,400 people have been treated for hypertension. It also means that 4,700 people received colorectal cancer care and 6,400 received breast cancer screening.
There is no doubt that such blanket has helped save lives.
New research released this week examines the economic impact on people who have obtained coverage. The discoveries are intuitive.
Here’s how the New York Times described them: “Americans owe almost twice as much medical debt as previously known, and the amount owed has become increasingly concentrated in states that do not participate in the program. Medicaid expansion of the Affordable Care Act.
The bottom line is that the Affordable Care Act and the expansion of Medicaid have not only saved lives while bringing new federal dollars to states, but have also improved the financial situation of thousands of low-income families, including them. Maine families.
Together, Maine’s decision to expand Medicaid and provide health care and now dental care to more than 70,000 people may be two of the most important policy decisions for working families in Maine.
People can get the health care and soon the dental care they need. They have less medical debt. And their life is noticeably better.
Now, as we read the headlines on the next gubernatorial race, we see that the old LePage – the person singularly responsible for blocking health care for over 70,000 – is showing up again. This time he tries to “clean up” his act.
But the former governor has a file, and that file includes his decisions to prevent people in Maine from getting the health care they need. It includes a ruling that leads to higher medical debt for working families. Fewer cancer screenings. Less treatment for substance use disorders. Less money for the state.
When she ran for governor, Mills promised she would expand Medicaid. She kept her promise and it made an incredible difference for families across the state.
When you are sick or injured, you should be able to get the help you need. Medicaid and its expansion are living up to the people of Maine.
Farmer is a public affairs, political and media consultant in Portland, where he lives with his wife and two children.