Accepting federal funds under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) will create jobs, boost Maine’s economy and provide health coverage to thousands of Maine people. These are among the findings from “Federal Health Care Funding Makes Dollars and Sense for Maine,” a new report released today by Maine Equal Justice Partners (MEJP) and the Maine Center for Economic Policy (MECEP).
“Too many of our family members, neighbors and friends are one illness or one accident away from financial ruin because they lack health care coverage despite working hard,” said MEJP Executive Director Sara Gagné-Holmes. “It doesn’t have to be this way. If Maine accepts the federal funds available under the Affordable Care Act, then we can cover more people and save money by providing preventive services and reducing the cost associated with treating uninsured people in emergency rooms.”
The report finds that the new federal funds will:
• Provide health coverage to as many as 69,500 Maine people, a majority of whom are working;
• Create approximately 3,100 new jobs and stimulate more than $350 million in economic activity annually;
• Improve worker productivity and promote a competitive business climate; and
• Generate $16 million – $18 million in state and local revenue annually.
“Accepting these funds is a bargain Maine cannot afford to pass up,” said MECEP Executive Director Garrett Martin. “The federal government will pay 100 percent of the cost for covering all newly eligible people for the first three years. After that, the state’s share would still be considerably smaller than under the current MaineCare program. In fact, Maine is one of eight states expected to save money by taking advantage of this opportunity. Whether or not we take the money is up to the legislature and governor. The decision should be an easy one made even more so given that Maine can opt out at any time. In addition, if we don’t take the money, Maine taxpayers will wind up subsidizing health coverage for residents in states that do.”
The report also finds that the additional federal funds would increase health coverage in rural Maine and provide a pronounced economic boost in areas with a high density of health-related jobs.
For example, the report finds that in rural Washington County, 13.2 percent of the adult population under age 65 will gain coverage by accepting ACA funds compared to 6.6 percent in Cumberland County. It would also especially benefit the economies in counties with a high concentration of health care jobs including Penobscot, Androscoggin, Aroostook and Washington Counties where one out of every five jobs is in health care related industries.
Nationally, the cost of caring for the uninsured currently increases premiums for the average insured family by an estimated $1,000 annually, accepting federal funds would slow the growth of insurance costs for everyone.
“Many people who are uninsured or underinsured avoid seeking healthcare due to cost. They then don’t have access to their own healthcare provider when a problem arises," said Dr. Amy Madden, a family physician at the Belgrade Regional Health Center representing the Maine Medical Association. "So in addition to not having a medical home for recommended preventive care along with treatment of chronic and acute health problems, people end up receiving healthcare in a very expensive setting – the emergency department. Clearly, that’s not a good solution for the individual, and we see costs being shifted to those with insurance when hospitals provide more and more charity care.”
“Workers and their families who have health care coverage are more likely to receive preventive care to avoid illness, better manage chronic conditions like asthma and diabetes, and access needed care when they are sick,” said Cheryl Rust, owner of Le Garage Restaurant. “That’s not only good for them, it will also reduce absenteeism and increase productivity which benefits their employers and customers.”