Following is the Weekly Republican Radio Address from Senator Marianne Moore.
Hello, I am Senator Marianne Moore of District 6 and I come to you today with a heavy heart.
You may recognize
my voice, because two
months ago, I sat in front of this same microphone pleading with Governor
Mills and my colleagues in the state legislature to make use, as quickly as
possible, of funds available in two different sources to save our senior care
agencies. I pointed to either the surplus of revenue collected by the state but
not yet allocated, or the available unspent funds sitting at the Department of
Health and Human Services.
neither the governor nor Democrats who control both houses of the legislature
heeded that call and a month later, the largest home health service in our
state, Home Care for Maine, announced it would close, leaving its approximately
600 patients without needed care.
The reason for this funding and health care crisis is quite straightforward. In news reports, the attorney for Home Care specifically blamed the closure on the “lack of an increase in the MaineCare reimbursement rate to compensate for the hike in the state minimum wage, along with other government mandates.”
last three years, state government has mandated that these health care
providers give their workers a sixty percent increase in pay, but provided no
additional funding to match this jump in labor costs. One does not have to be
an accountant to know that this is an untenable financial situation.
the passage of the most recent state budget, my Republican colleagues and I
have been pleading for more attention and adequate funding for these agencies
that provide critical care. Sadly, the funding was not included in the two-year
state budget passed last June.
November, Commissioner Lambrew informed House and Senate Republican leaders on
the Appropriations Committee that the Department had identified a $31.5 million
pool of unspent Medicaid funding, likely due to the far lower than expected
enrollment in Medicaid expansion. The next day, my colleague Senator James
Hamper, Republican lead on the committee, asked the commissioner if at least
some of that money could be used to fund care for seniors, including nursing
commissioner replied that she would wait until the end of the fiscal year (July
2020) before making any decisions on unspent funds, and that it was “a little
premature” since she was not able to predict what unexpected expenses might arise.
administration’s position was clear that, rather than spending these available
funds on a real, known, crisis-level need in senior care, they chose to wait
until the end of the fiscal year to spend this pool of Medicaid funds on
unexpected expenses that may or may not come to pass. The department chose a
possible future need over a real immediate need.
decision to wait likely doomed Home Care for Maine, the state’s largest home
care agency, which announced three months later that it would close due to the
lack of adequate funding from the state. Their closing left nearly 600 seniors
and adults who have physical disabilities without care, and will send a ripple
effect down through the system which does not have the capacity to easily
absorb that many “new” patients. This is particularly troublesome given the
closure of seven nursing homes in the last two years and the likely closure of
more facilities in the near future that are facing the same funding realities.
after this meeting last November, Senate Republicans issued a press
release calling for an agreement between the legislature and Governor Mills
to fund the shortfall for nursing homes with some of the surplus state revenue
that had been collected to that point. Using part of this unallocated pool of
$30 million would also have bolstered the senior care community and could have
prevented the closure of Home Care for Maine.
for cooperation and agreement, went unanswered. Neither the governor, nor
legislative leaders, nor the leaders of the Appropriations Committee so much as
acknowledged our plea to help these organizations and their patients.
cents per hour of care that they provided, and seeing no realistic prospect on
the horizon for relief from their financial crisis, Home Care for Maine
announced that it would close in April. This should never have occurred.
state revenues and a two-year budget one billion dollars larger than its
predecessor, there was ample money available for this crucial government
in the most prosperous economy it has ever experienced, the failure of state
government to fund these critical programs is nothing short of unconscionable.
cause for hope is the fact that the more than $30 million of unspent Medicaid
money is still untouched, ready and available for use in preventing the next
agency closure and the casting out of more seniors and disabled adults. All
that is needed is a word from Governor Mills.
opportunities to resolve this crisis dwindling almost daily, an immediate
response is the only justifiable course of action.
Again, I am State Senator Marianne Moore, Thank you for listening.