AUGUSTA, Maine (NEWS CENTER) - Advocates for the poor, the disabled and other groups are preparing to fight back against proposed cuts in Maine's huge Medicaid program.
The Medicaid budget is facing a 121 million dollar budget shortfall this year and a 110-million dollar shortfall next year.
Governor Paul LePage has proposed cutting as many as 65-thousand people from the program to balance the budget and make long term changes.
Those opposing the changes say the cuts would hurt thousands of poor people and leave them without health insurance. And they say that would result in increased costs for many Maine hospitals.
The Governor's proposal would reduce the amount of money Medicaid pays hospitals for treating patients.
It would reduce funding for some small "critical access" hospitals. And opponents of the cuts claim it would also lead to higher costs for charity care and bad debt, as more people without insurance seek medical care.
The Maine Center for Economic Policy, a liberal-leaning think tank, says an estimated 4,400 workers would lose their jobs as a result of the budget cuts and, many of them in health care organizations.
The Maine Hospital Association says it hopes to negotiate with the Legislature to reduce the impact of the cuts. But Jeff Austin, the vice president of the Association, says the MHA agrees with Governor LePage that the Medicaid program and budget are "unsustainable" in their current form, and that changes need to be made.
Public hearings on the proposed cuts and changes are scheduled to begin Wednesday, Dec 14, and last for three days.