Mainecare cuts straining Bangor's General Fund

BANGOR, Maine (NEWS CENTER)-- Thousands of people have lost Mainecare coverage since the start of the year. They are now forced to look elsewhere for help with medical costs, especially prescription drugs. In Bangor, the help comes from the general assistance fund and it is straining an already strapped budget.

Rindy Folger with Bangor Health and Community Services said, "Since January 1st, we have seen over seventy-five people who we have never seen before who are now coming in looking for help with their medications...Monthly right now we are paying about $9,500 in prescriptions which, over the course of the year, is a significant amount of money for the Bangor taxpayers to have to pay."

According to Folger, the general assistance fund expenditures doubled compared to last year.

Folger said, "It's very frustrating in municipalities to see things happen in Augusta where Augusta could tout the fact that they are saving money by dropping these people from the Mainecare roles when in fact all it is doing is shifting the cost to the municipalities."

Bangor Council chair, Ben Sprague, worries this spike in costs will ultimately cause property taxes to increase for residents.

Sprague said, "Many of whom are elderly on fixed income. They cant take more property tax increases. So in Bangor, we are trying to figure out how do we pay for this without letting the burden fall only to the property taxpayer."

At the state level, these cuts were made to protect the state's elderly and disabled who were falling between the cracks.

Commissioner Mary Mayhew with DHHS said, "Because of the changes we have made we will now have resources to be able to devote to those most vulnerable individuals."

According to Mayhew, those cut from Mainecare can seek alternative coverage through the Affordable Care Act.

"The state has been struggling for years with a medicaid program that has grown beyond the state's ability to pay for it. It has doubled in size both in the number of people who have been on the program and in dollars. It's increased over a billion dollars in a decade," added Mayhew.

Sprague, however, disagrees.

"The state cant get its fiscal act together so what it is doing is demanding that municipal property taxpayers pick up the burden," said Sprague.

The general assistance fund already submitted their proposal for next year's budget and increased their needed funding by 50-percent to cover these costs.


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