|1/2/2014 11:19:00 AM|
Eye on Augusta: Legislature Returns, Single-Payer Health Care & Asylum Seekers
by Andy OBrienWith all of the hubbub over the governor's gag orders, tax reform and turmoil in the Department of Health and Human Services, it's easy to forget that the Legislature has been recessed since last summer. But next week the full Legislature will return for another round of budget and policy wrangling. And with a gubernatorial election on the horizon and 186 House and Senate seats up for grabs, it's also a time when the partisan messaging war will hit a fever pitch as re-election campaigns heat up.
The governor has already come out swinging with an agenda of more cuts in assistance to the poor. Democrats hope to generate enough political pressure on Republicans to accept federal money for Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act following a veto last summer.
On Thursday, January 9, the Insurance and Financial Affairs Committee will hold a public hearing on two Democratic bills that would start Maine on the path of setting up a public single-payer health insurance system. Rep. Charlie Priest (D-Brunswick), sponsor of LD 1345, admits that his bill has no chance of passing, but he says it's an opportunity to start a dialogue. Vermont is in the process of developing a single-payer system, though, under a 2011 law signed by Governor LePage, Mainers are specifically prohibited from buying health coverage from Vermont (see "Looking at Vermont: Is Single-Payer Health Care an Option for Maine?," The Free Press, 6/20/2013 ).
Meanwhile on the welfare front, Governor LePage has proposed a rule change to cut all General Assistance funding to municipalities for asylum seekers. Typically fleeing violence and political persecution in their native countries, asylum seekers cannot legally work until 150 days after filing applications for asylum. They are preventing from receiving other assistance programs due to citizenship requirements, but general assistance considers only financial need and not citizenship status. Immigrant advocates estimate that the change would leave 1,000 people in Maine without shelter and other basic needs.
The public hearing on that rule change will be held at 1 p.m. on Friday, January 10, at 19 Union Street in Augusta, Conference Room 110.
Posted: Thursday, January 2, 2014
Article comment by:
The first thing we, as civilized people, need to do is rid Augusta of this ill-bred parvenu IGMFU LePage. Then we go for single-payer health care. Then we go for no taxpayer-funded varsity athletics and more tenured professorships. Then we go for free graduate school tuition for anyone who can keep up a B+ average in all subjects. We are gradually losing life expectancy and patent leadership to our "socialized" competitors in Europe and Asia.
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