MaineCare Costs

The Real Story Behind the Numbers
Tuesday March 4th, 2008
Kurt Wise
Maine Center for Economic Policy

Augusta — This week, in collaboration with Maine Equal Justice Partners (MEJP), the Maine Center for Economic Policy (MECEP) released a report examining MaineCare costs and how these costs compare to those of Medicaid programs in other states. The report finds that MaineCare designers have successfully moved many qualifying state-funded programs into the Medicaid system, thereby shifting most of the cost of these programs onto the federal government.

“On average, Maine spends fewer state dollars per state resident on its Medicaid program than do the other New England states,” says Chris Hastedt, Public Policy Director at MEJP. “At the same time, MaineCare delivers a wider range of quality services to our people than is true in many other states. In other words, by making use of the federal matching dollars available through Medicaid, Maine is getting more, but spending less.” MaineCare innovations have allowed Maine to maximize federal support for its government health care expenditures.

The report discusses the three principal factors that are responsible for a state’s final program costs:
• geographic location
• population characteristics
• program design

 The fact that Maine is able to provide quality services at a lower state cost is particularly notable given that Maine faces an overall higher cost environment than many states. Maine is both a large, rural state and has the oldest population in the nation, as well as high rates of chronic illness and disability within the general population. These factors help explain why overall per capita spending on health care in Maine exceeds the national average by some 21 percent, and the report concludes that efforts to control spending on MaineCare must address the overall cost of health care in Maine.

Total spending on a state’s Medicaid program can also mask important secondary cost-savings that a well-designed program generates.  “MaineCare not only helps save state dollars by shifting state-funded services into this federally supported program,” says Ana Hicks, policy analyst with MEJP, “it helps reduce private insurance costs as well. MaineCare helps insure some very low income people who can now receive preventive care, reducing expensive emergency room use and providing a payment source when these folks do need emergency care.” This helps prevent cost-shifting to the privately insured.

Maine provides quality care, has low rates of un-insurance, and achieves regionally low levels of state spending.  Simply put, with MaineCare, Maine is thinking smarter and getting more for its money.