2017-11-02 / Letters

SMHC urges residents to expand Medicaid

To the editor:

On Nov. 7, Maine voters will decide whether the state should expand its Medicaid program (MaineCare) under the federal Affordable Care Act. Leadership of Southern Maine Health Care believes that MaineCare expansion would be a good thing, and we want to share with you the reasons why.

Medicaid expansion in Maine would:

Extend affordable health care coverage to nearly 80,000 low-income Maine people. In York County, 8,000 low-income adults would become eligible for MaineCare. Uninsured patients often defer regular healthcare and then come to the emergency department for care or require hospitalizations that could have been avoided with earlier treatment.

Open more doors to care needed for our patients. Every day we struggle to find resources for patients who need behavioral health or social support services beyond what is available through SMHC. SMHC provides care regardless of a patient’s ability to pay. However, uninsured patients are frequently shut out of care options at other organizations that simply cannot afford to provide care without any reimbursement.

Have a positive and stabilizing effect on Maine hospitals and our health care providers. In Fiscal year 2016, SMHC absorbed $15.5 million in care for which we were not paid. Had the proposed Medicaid expansion been in place that year, it is estimated that $8.24 million – more than half of that care would have been covered by MaineCare, with federal dollars picking up no less than 90 percent of the cost of the expansion.

There is no such thing as free health care. SMHC cares for uninsured patients who cannot afford to pay us, but we still have to pay for the staff, supplies, technology, utilities and facilities necessary to provide that care. This is placing an ever increasing burden on Maine’s community hospitals that puts local services for all patients at risk.

Nineteen of 34 Maine community hospitals, including SMHC, experienced operating losses in fiscal year 2016. So the risks are real and affect everyone. That is why we and other Maine healthcare leaders see Medicaid expansion as necessary and the best, most cost efficient way to provide care for our low-income patients.

Thank you for considering this as you vote on Nov. 7. Edward J. McGeachey, president, CEO Southern Maine Health Care William F. Frank, MD Southern Maine Health Care

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