Cuts to Medicaid

Governor LePage is going to cut Medicaid in Maine. Here is what some LePage and some of his supporters say:

LePage has likened Medicaid to welfare and criticized able-bodied adults who receive taxpayer funded health care. His spokeswoman said he would not be interviewed. But LePage has defended his decision.

In a Jan. 28 letter to the US Department of Health and Human Services, he argued that Maine’s previous Medicaid expansion prompted people to “drop their private insurance in favor of free coverage at the expense of Maine taxpayers,” leading to an “addictive-like dependence on federal dollars.” The state’s credit outlook was downgraded recently in part because of the added burden of its Medicaid costs.

But LePage does have the backing of a number of constituents as well as conservative groups. William Gyorfi, a 65-year-old regular at the Governor’s Diner in Lewiston, supports LePage’s decision to cut back the Medicaid rolls. People need to take more responsibility with their finances because Maine has too many people depending upon government handouts, he said.

“This state has become a welfare state, and Medicaid is part of the problem,” said Gyorfi, a sales associate in the sporting goods department at Kmart. “You have those people who rely on Medicaid for a long time and they become addicted to it. They need to be weaned off the system.”

Joel Allumbaugh, director of the Center for Health Reform Initiatives at the Maine Heritage Policy Center, a conservative research organization, agreed, saying, “When you create these avenues for people to have free health care, where is the incentive to go out and advance yourself through your own initiative?”

The Globe helpfully provides a bit of background on a few of these layabouts:

Louis Bourgoin seems an unlikely symbol of the latest battle over health care spending. The 68-year-old retired shipyard worker is undergoing chemotherapy for liver cancer. He lives in a state once renowned for its efforts to insure the poor, and Mainers stood to benefit even more under President Obama’s health care plan.

Then the letter from the administration of Governor Paul LePage arrived. Bourgoin and his wife were told last month they were about to lose thousands of dollars in annual Medicaid benefits starting March.

He’s become addicted to living, what a leach.

“People don’t wake up and choose to be poor,” said Ramon Badillo Perez, a 35-year-old father of four who relies on Medicaid for the knee and foot problems he has developed from his two-mile walk each day to his $10.80-an-hour job managing the cafeteria at Sam’s Club in Augusta. “You work to try to get ahead, and you can’t.”

Now there’s someone who’s gaming the system because he’s just a lazy bum.

Donna Garnett, a 45-year-old living in a Portland shelter for homeless women, is among 10,000 adults without dependent children who are scheduled to be dropped next year. Her last job was as a gas station attendant in 2007, but she can no longer work because of a slew of health problems that require her to take 18 medications each day.

Garnett lives off $227 a month from her father’s life insurance. Her medications cost her $30 a month, but without Medicaid, the price will skyrocket to more than $815 a month for pills to control her asthma, diabetes, thyroid, back pain, and depression.

If she just had some initiative, she wouldn’t have asthma or her other problems.

Jennifer Webb, a 35-year-old mother of three who is at risk of losing her Medicaid benefits in March, just had ankle surgery and will require physical therapy when she is able to walk again in four weeks. By then, she does not expect to have coverage.

Her husband, a former Army sergeant, has traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of two tours in Iraq. He had a job installing metal roofing in hopes of building enough savings to buy the home in Pittston the family is now renting, but he was laid off last week.

Obviously they have become dependent on government, first he was a government worker and now they expect government help. That’s just not American.

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