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Medicaid Study Author Takes Issue with Maine Governor's Conclusions
09/18/2013   Reported By: A.J. Higgins

Gov. Paul LePage remains opposed to expanding Medicaid, and bases his arguments, in part, on a University of Michigan study. But one of the study's co-authors is challenging LePage's inerpretation. LePage says the study found that more young people with tobacco and alcohol issues would be covered if the program is expanded, pushing the elderly and the disabled to the back of the benefits line. But Dr. Matthew Davis, who co-authored the Michigan study, says LePage has reached the wrong conclusion. A.J. Higgins has more.

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Medicaid Study Author Takes Issue with Maine Gover
Originally Aired: 9/18/2013 5:30 PM

Gov. Paul LePage stepped up his attack this week on Democratic plans for Medicaid expansion under the federal Affordable Care Act, using a University of Michigan study to make his case. The study found that Medicaid expansion would bring in larger numbers of young men with tobacco and alcohol issues.

That led the governor to conclude in a press release that an expansion would thus end up "depleting scarce resources that are critical to care for those who desperately need assistance. We must ensure our neediest Mainers, the elderly and disabled, are put at the front of the line."

Dr. Matthew Davis, who co-authored the Michigan study, says LePage is wrong - about both the displacement of the elderly and disabled, and about the impact of Medicaid expansion.

"From what I've read of the governor's press release, it seems that what he's emphasizing is the principle in Maine that care should be provided for seniors and disabled individuals first, and what's intriguing about that is that that is actually the priority that the U.S. and the state of Maine have had ever since the passage of Medicare and Medicaid back in 1965," Davis says.

Davis's study, a collaboration with Dr. Tammy Chang, was recently published in the Annals of Family Medicine. He says their findings actually concluded that Medicaid expansion could drive down healthcare costs in Maine and other states by steering young people toward healthier lifestyle choices.

He rejects LePage's either-or analogy with respect to the elderly and disabled, who he says will always be first in line simply because of the way Medicaid and Medicare are structured.

"That is an established principle, and the programs of Medicare and Medicaid have made sure that seniors and disabled persons have ready access to health insurance coverage through government programs, ever since those programs were instituted about 50 years ago," Davis says. "So the Affordable Care Act isn't going to change that, and our findings don't threaten the safety net that has existed for a couple of generations now for seniors and the disabled."

After hearing that the co-author of the study he had cited to support his opposition to Medicaid expansion did not agree with him, LePage offered this response: "Well, he's wrong."

LePage says what's true in Michigan isn't necessarily true in Maine. And he says Davis should have made an effort to verify his opinion.

"He's wrong because we have, right now as I speak to you, 3,100 people that are disabled elderly - they're on a waiting list and have been on a waiting list for a decade," LePage says. "And so I think that the professor - who I believe is from another state - probably needs to come in and look at the facts."

"The rhetoric that you're hearing out of the governor is an indication of him feeling the heat for a very poor decision," says Democratic House Speaker Mark Eves. "Nearly 70 percent of Mainers want this to happen."

Eves says LePage latched on to aspects of the University of Michigan study that supported his position in an effort to drum up opposition to Democratic plans for advancing a new bill next year to expand Medicaid.

House Republican Leader Ken Fredette says he doesn't support Medicaid expansion, and that Republicans on a legislative committee never got a chance to discuss the Democratic plan that was vetoed by the governor in June.

"The bills were presented down in the DHS Committee, there was really no in-depth conversations about it, experts brought in," Fredette says. "And again, I thought it was done in a way that was really disingenuous to a really significant policy issue."

Democrats plan to submit the bill after the first of the year.


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