FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – 2/24/20
(Augusta, ME) – Senate Republicans are again asking Democrats and the Mills administration to take immediate action to prevent further closure of senior care facilities and agencies in Maine due to inadequate funding.
By directing DHHS to use some of the more than 30 million unspent dollars sitting idle in their accounts, we could address this problem immediately, preventing more agencies and facilities from closing.
At a press conference on Thursday, Sen. Shenna Bellows introduced a bill to provide $8.5 million to increase reimbursements to home health care agencies. This bill will take time and have to fight for funding with Governor Mills’ supplemental budget priorities that do not include this issue. Most importantly, it is not necessary.
Despite repeated calls by Senate Republicans to redirect surplus Medicaid funds immediately, neither Democrat leaders in the legislature nor on the Appropriations Committee have joined us in our efforts to convince Governor Mills to act.
This funding was not included in the Governor’s proposed budget last year. It was not included in the final two-year budget passed last June which increased spending by one billion dollars. It was not included in the governor’s supplemental budget proposal to spend an additional $127 million.
Now that Democrats have finally chosen to make this a priority after the largest home care agency in Maine has closed its doors, Senate Republicans again ask them to join us in asking that Governor Mills act immediately to avert further crisis.
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During a meeting of the Appropriations Committee Senator James Hamper, Republican Lead on the committee, asked DHHS Commissioner Lambrew if she would commit to spending some of the $30.5 million in unspent Medicaid funds on senior care reimbursements. The commissioner replied that she would take no action until the end of the fiscal year (June 30, 2020) and would hold that money in case of unexpected costs that could be accrued. (Audio of the commissioner’s response: Link)
At that meeting, Commissioner Lambrew stated that the need to fund nursing homes (via LD 1758) was $7 million. She explained her refusal to use the unspent Medicaid funds by saying that it was the administration’s approach to seek General Fund or Other Special Revenue funds instead of using available reserves. (Audio of the commissioner’s response: Link)
Two months later, Governor Mills released her proposed Supplemental Budget that did not include funding for LD 1758 or other senior care needs.