Analysts: Maine Would Get Smaller-Than-Claimed Increase In Funding Under GOP Health Bill

Sep 25, 2017

Over the weekend, Congressional Senate Republicans revamped a proposal to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act in an attempt to win over key voters to their side, including Republican U.S. Sen. Susan Collins of Maine.

One of the bill’s sponsors, U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, told the Washington Post that the new version of his bill would kick more funding to Maine. But health policy analysts question that claim.

The new version of the Graham-Cassidy bill projects that Maine would see a 43 percent increase in health care funding. Though Cassidy told the Washington Post that it’s more money than the state would have received under the earlier version of the bill, Mitchell Stein, a Maine-based independent health policy consultant, isn’t so sure.

“All we have right now are their words saying Maine’s getting all this money. But then we have all these other estimates saying, probably not. So, it’s very unclear,” he says.

What is clear, says Stein, is no matter how much of a boost Maine gets under this revised version, it’s not as good as it seems. That’s because the projections put out under the Graham-Cassidy bill don’t take into account the money Maine would lose from the bill’s federal funding caps on Medicaid.

When Charles Gaba, who runs the website ACASignups, includes those cuts, he estimates Maine would only see a 14 percent increase in funding. That increase for Maine, Stein says, takes away funds from other states, and it only lasts 10 years.

“It’s like Maine is being offered a first-class ticket on the Titanic. For a short amount of time, we may be better of than the people in steerage. But the end result is the same. And in 10 years, when we see this funding cliff, we’re all hitting the iceberg together,” he says.

The revised Graham-Cassidy bill also weakens consumer protections. States could allow insurance companies to charge higher premiums for people with pre-existing conditions without getting a federal waiver.

Stein says essentially, states could make changes to health care standards based on a pinky swear.

“Basically, they have to make a statement saying they’re going to take care of people. But they don’t have to give evidence of how that’s going to happen. There are no penalties if it doesn’t happen,” he says.

Collins has said she’ll wait for a Congressional Budget Office analysis before she makes a final decision on whether to support Graham-Cassidy. But when she appeared on CBS’s “Face the Nation” on Sunday, she said it was hard to envision getting to “yes” on the bill.