For Immediate Release
Contact: Meaghan LaSala
Portland, ME: While thousands of Medicaid recipients in Arkansas lose their health coverage due to punitive work requirements, The Southern Maine Workers’ Center (SMWC) is launching a campaign to stop similar attacks on MaineCare. On Sunday, October 28 at 1:00 p.m. in Monument Square, SMWC along with a coalition of supporters will Rally to Protect and Expand Health Care. (The rally, originally planned for Saturday, was postponed to Sunday, October 28 due to weather).
The rally will feature testimony from MaineCare recipients, and amplify broad public support for universal, publicly funded health care in the lead-up to midterm elections. Mainers overwhelmingly voted to expand MaineCare access, and over 83% of Mainers surveyed by SMWC support universal, publicly funded health care, but DHHS is denying the will of the people by attempting to undemocratically dismantle MaineCare using an 1115 Waiver.
If implemented, the 1115 Waiver will fundamentally restructure MaineCare, stripping many people of their access to care by creating deadly bureaucratic and financial barriers. The Southern Maine Workers’ Center is committed to organizing everyday people across Maine to secure a universal healthcare system that guarantees healthcare to all residents, and will resist these changes that would move Maine in the wrong direction.
The rally is co-sponsored by Maine AllCare, Maine Health Care is a Human Right, Maine Inside Out, Maine State Nurses Association, Portland Outright and Portland Overdose Prevention Site (OPS).
Mark James is a member of the Southern Maine Workers’ Center, and a MaineCare recipient. James said about the campaign, “We believe that a person’s access to fair and affordable healthcare should be tied to their humanity, not to any other aspect of their identity like employment, citizenship, family, or income. MaineCare has saved my life, and I want everyone to have the same access to care when they need it.”
DHHS misleadingly portrays the 1115 waiver as a way to incentivize work in order to distract from its aims to cut access to healthcare, stigmatize low-income people, undercut both MaineCare and the Affordable Care Act, transfer resources from poor people to corporations and the wealthy, and undermine Mainers’ commitment to taking collective action as a state to meet our shared needs. The following stipulations, along with the expensive and burdensome bureaucracy that they would require, would devastate many of the poor and working class Mainers who rely on access to MaineCare.
People on Medicaid would be required to continually submit paperwork proving where they work and how many hours a week they are employed. But Mainers do all kinds of formal and informal work, like working multiple jobs and providing unpaid caregiving for loved ones that would be hard to document and in many cases wouldn’t qualify as “work” under these rules at all. We should get healthcare based on our medical needs, not on how much money we have or whether we happen to be employed. No one “deserves” to be denied healthcare.
The waiver would place new cost burdens on people that would make it hard if not impossible for people to get care. Everyone enrolled in MaineCare would be denied care until they are able to come up with money to pay premiums and copays, and if they ever miss a payment, they can be kicked out of MaineCare after just 90 days.
Anyone who has more than $5,000 in savings would be kicked out of MaineCare. This will deny people healthcare and prevent people who really need to stay on MaineCare from being able to save even basic emergency funds for their families. Low income Mainers should not be forced to choose between building a modest savings and their healthcare.
Poor and working class people often have limited transportation, inflexible bosses, medical conditions, and other challenges that make it hard to get to appointments. Instead of helping people make their doctors’ appointments, the waiver would punish patients by allowing providers to charge patients for any appointments they miss.
To stay eligible for MaineCare, people would be required to fill out endless paperwork documenting that they are following all of these rules. If they can’t figure out or keep up with all the paperwork, they will be kicked out.