LePage Budget Slashes Healthcare

Due mostly to a series of incorrect estimates and miscalculations by the LePage administration, Maine’s budget is facing a $221 million shortfall for this year and next in the Department of Health and Human Services.

To fill this gap, Governor LePage has proposed a massive set of cuts that would eliminate health care completely for more than 60,000 Mainers and deny basic health care services to hundreds of thousands more.

The cuts would be devastating. All health coverage for 7,000 young people (age 19 and 20) would be dropped. 72,000 seniors and people with disabilities would lose coverage for Medicare and/or prescription drug costs. Another 5,000 to 6,000 Mainers older than 62 who aren’t on Medicare but have serious health conditions also would also have their prescription drug help stripped away.

Everyone on MaineCare would be cut off from a host of important medical services, including vision treatment, outpatient surgery centers and occupational and physical therapy.

Non-medical institutions such as nursing homes and similar facilities would be defunded, putting 5,000 people, including seniors and those with severe mental illness, onto the street.

LePage also has proposed eliminating all state funding for Head Start, which provides early care and education to the children of low-income families from prenatal to 5 years old, and many other important programs.

Overall, the cuts weigh heaviest on those who can least afford them: children, the elderly, the poor and those with disabilities. There’s a better and more responsible solution to deal with this budget shortfall.

Last year, LePage passed the largest tax cut in Maine history, and it primarily favors the wealthiest individuals and corporations in the state.

The top 1 percent of income earners (those making more than $356,608 per year) will receive an average tax cut of $2,905, while the bottom 20 percent will receive a tax cut of just $9.

To look at it in a slightly different way, the top 1 percent will receive around 20 percent of the total income tax cut. The bottom 50 percent will receive just 9 percent.

The estate and corporate tax cuts make the plan even more regressive. The estates of 550 of the richest families in Maine will be exempted up to $2 million in the next two-year budget cycle, at a cost of $51 million to the state. Many large corporations will get breaks on their property taxes, with Walmart alone receiving an extra $1 million.

Shouldn’t we cancel some of these extravagant tax cuts for the wealthy before we cut needed health care services for poor families? The Maine People’s Alliance thinks so. That’s why, along with a wide range of other organizations including the Maine Medical Association and the Catholic Church, we’ve proposed an alternative.

You kind find out more about how we can solve the budget shortfall at www.responsiblesolution.com. There, you can also send a message to the Legislature asking them to act in the values and the best interests of the people of Maine by rolling back the tax cuts for the wealthy, making sure the top 1% pay their fair share and refusing Governor LePage’s proposal to place the burden on those who can least afford it.

Here are some of the messages that we have received already:

While I may not be a 1 percenter, my fiancé and I are probably in the top 5-10% with our combined income. It sickens me to think that someone may go without much needed access to health care so I can save a few hundred dollars on my tax bill every year. I don’t NEED that tax cut... if it came right down to it, I could sacrifice 2 dinners out if it meant someone would have 12 months of medical and prescription coverage. TWO dinners in exchange for 12 months of health coverage. Why is this even a question?

Bonnie S.
Waterville

Please don’t let these grand plans of our Governor go through. As an “older” disabled widow who medically needs help, I am terribly worried about what’s going to happen to me if the Governor and other Republicans get their way in Maine and in the entire United States.

Lind B.
Brewer

I am a 33 year old father, I have multiple sclerosis. My treatment costs thousands of dollars each month. I am currently barely making ends meet. Without MaineCare I would be totally sunk, financially, physically and, psychologically. Please do the responsible thing for the citizens of Maine.

Christopher A.
Ogunquit

 As a Licensed Clinical Social Worker who visits with elderly Mainers, I am horrified by the prospect of low income seniors having to face extreme cuts to their medical coverage, when they can already barely make ends meet. Please join me in opposing Governor LePage’s irresponsible cuts, which will affect the most vulnerable in our state.

Aura R.
Portland

In my classroom, there are children who come to school hungry. Their parents work hard to keep things afloat, but each day they have to make hard choices - food or housing? Heat or clothing? Who gets to go to the doctor? MaineCare gives them a chance, a way to make it through. Without MaineCare, their situation would be so much worse, and I believe the long range costs would be far worse. Sick, cold hungry children do not thrive. They do not learn well, and they need far more help later on in their lives.

Jean W.
East Vassalboro

As a part-time mental health and substance abuse counselor, I work with some of Maine’s most vulnerable citizens. These cuts to MaineCare will mean increased costs in emergency room care and prisons and inpatient treatment centers. It’s time for us to stop stepping on the backs of the poor to balance the state’s budget. Please do not support our embarrassing governor’s misguided effort to cut this program.

Jennifer L.
Portland

We live on SSI, cuts to Mainecare would be disastrous for us. At 85 we can’t just go out and get a job if there were any. Stop the cuts to MaineCare.

Peter D.
Cape Elizabeth

I have been a small business owner for over twenty years. I have seen how health care creates a stronger work force. Please support affordable health care for the hard working people of Maine.

John F.
Brunswick