LePage policies have left thousands of children without health care

Thousands more Maine children have no access to critical health care services as a result of Governor LePage’s policies, according to data from the US Census Bureau and the Maine Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS). The data, highlighted in a report by the Annie E Casey Foundation, show that the share of Maine children without any health insurance rose dramatically between 2010 and 2015. Approximately 3,600 more children lack health insurance now than before LePage took office.

The rise in the number and share of children without health insurance took place during a period in which the LePage administration restricted access to Mainecare, the state’s Medicaid program. While the eligibility restrictions applied only to adults, numerous studies (here and here) show that when parents lose coverage, their children are very likely to be dropped from the plan. Health care advocates denounce ambiguous notices from DHHS about MaineCare eligibility that may have led parents to think their children no longer qualified.

Data from DHHS show that over the course of the administration (FY12 through FY17 to Feb), MaineCare enrollment for children declined by 16,500. This, over a period in which the eligible population has remained stable.

Dropping MaineCare Case Loads for Kids
State Fiscal Year Average MaineCare Kids Kids < 200% FPL
2012 114,027 103,599
2013 109,692 104,638
2014 101,323 104,625
2015 103,349 103,096
2016 101,453  
2017 97,488  

Sources – Maine DHHS caseload data; US Census Bureau, American Community Survey, 1 year estimates 2011-15 (eligibility level is 213% of the federal poverty level (FPL), plus some other categories, disability, for example).

Between 2010 and 2015, the period covered by the census data, more than 10,000 children lost MaineCare coverage. While some were able to get coverage through other means of insurance (Healthcare.gov or employer insurance) one in three remained uncovered. Those children didn’t have access to preventative care, treatment for conditions, or access to lifesaving prescription drugs. Even those who had private insurance would have faced monthly premiums, copays, and deductibles that place financial hardships on these families who are living in or near poverty.

The governor’s MaineCare cuts, combined with his continued opposition to accepting federal funds to expand Medicaid, have real and serious consequences for the financial and physical health of Maine families and the state’s economy. But Mainers will have a chance to change that at the polls this November when they can vote to accept the federal health care funds the governor has refused. We can protect our children where the governor’s policies have failed to do so.