Republicans’ latest attempt to cut Medicaid threatens older Mainers

Republicans’ latest attempt to cut Medicaid threatens older Mainers

Maine seniors and home health care workers are ringing an alarm on potential cuts to Medicaid that could be included in the federal budget in order to fund new tax breaks benefiting the wealthy. They spoke in front of the Margaret Chase Smith Federal Building in Bangor on Wednesday to warn that such cuts would be devastating for Maine, the state with the oldest population in the country.

“It’s important to understand what cutting Medicaid would mean for Maine. Many of my clients only have access to services because of Medicaid, and nearly all are of very limited means, barely keeping their heads above water,” said Danielle VanHelsing, a home care worker practicing in Piscataquis County. “It would mean thousands of home care workers and health care workers losing their jobs and it would mean more families losing their savings trying to pay for nursing homes.”

Cuts to Medicaid and changes to the program that would see payments decrease to states over time were part of both President Donald Trump’s budget proposal and several legislative plans advanced by House Republicans. In June, Congressman Bruce Poliquin voted for an $834 billion cut to Medicaid as part of health care repeal legislation that ultimately failed in the Senate.

For Wilbur Worcester of Hermon, seeing his mother unable to afford home care and only secure assistance in a nursing home because of Medicaid has fueled his activism for preserving access to care.

“Seeing what my mother had to go through, and knowing how much worse it could have been, drove my desire, for many years, to fight for expansion of homecare, pay raises for care workers, and a better quality of life for seniors and people with disabilities,” said Worcester. “But, now, I have another reason. I am 72 years young. I’m approaching the age where I’m wondering what my quality of life will be like in a decade. Will I be able to live alone? Will I be able to take care of myself?”

According to U.S. Census data, Maine has the oldest population in the country. 371,000 Mainers receive health coverage through the program and 63,000 seniors rely on it for nursing home or home care services, a rate 70% higher than the national average.

“We are here because, while Congress is out of session right now, we know that Donald Trump and his congressional allies are not done with healthcare,” said Richard Bissell, a senior from Bangor. “Medicaid serves many purposes, caring for people of all ages, but it’s specifically designed to care for those who are the most impoverished, disabled, or vulnerable. We can’t let them take it away.”


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