Cutting healthcare access in the middle of an epidemic is a great idea!

I owe an apology to Sen. Mike Thibodeau and Rep. Sara Gideon because I have a post rattling around in my head about their moratorium proposal for the retail recreational marijuana market in Maine. I think it’s an excellent example of legislative leadership working in a bipartisan fashion to address citizens’ concerns and preserve Maine’s best interests — in a hurry even.

Gideon and Thibodeau’s ability to work together on emergency legislation sets a hopeful tone for an effective 128th legislature. I know I am hopeful.

But that post will have to wait because I am still struggling to internalize the reality of what Governor LePage and Maine DHHS Commissioner Mary Mayhew want to do to the Mainecare program.  (I’ve been told to capitalize the “c” in Mainecare, by the way, but if anyone thinks I am going to capitalize the “c” in the word “care” for that program as it currently stands, that person is Crazy.)

Click here for the backstory if you didn’t read my last post, but I was writing about being appalled by the idea of cutting parents living at 140 percent of poverty off Mainecare. Turns out they’ve already been cut off and the proposal is to have parents at 40 percent of poverty removed from the program.

That blows my mind.

Every once in a while someone will ask me if I’ve ever considered entering politics. My response so far has always been involuntary laughter. It’s not disrespectful laughter — I appreciate the compliment. The laughter comes from the instant image of me going off on a rant that includes expletives because there’s nothing like political realm when it comes to producing irrational thinking that triggers streams of expletives.

Then I always imagine my friend Cobby laughing at my rants and telling me I belong on a soapbox. Anytime I imagine my friend Cobby laughing, it makes me laugh, even now that he’s gone and that laughter gets rinsed by at least a few tears.

Don’t get me wrong — it’s not like I run around spewing off all the time, but sometimes I hear ideas that come from the political realm (on either side of the aisle) that are just … well, there’s no way to say it without a rant and a few expletives. This Mainecare proposal is a great example of what I’m talking about.

Here’s what it would sound like if a DHHS official came to hypothetical politician Trish and said the plan was to save money by lowering the Mainecare threshold to 40 percent of poverty:

Are you _____ kidding me?! Did you just ____ tell me the people charged with maintaining Maine’s healthcare infrastructure want to cut healthcare access more during a public health crisis like our addiction epidemic?! Did you just _____ tell me that you expect people with children living below the poverty line to pay for their own methadone to treat an addiction that statistics suggest probably started while receiving medical care?

What — a few hundred people showing up at the chief examiner’s office in body bags last year isn’t enough? I tell you what:  I’ve got a better idea. Why don’t we just ____ contract with the leader of the Philippines who can come over and show us how death squads work? Then we can line up anyone with an addiction/treating an addiction under a certain income and just kill them right off.  It’d probably be less expensive than letting them decline slowly in the community anyway.

Although, then we might have to kill their kids, too, because our foster care system is already overloaded. ____-____-____-_____!

Then, the DHHS official might try to convince me that it’s okay because other states are doing it. To which hypothetical politician Trish would reply:

Well, if we’re going to go with that lame-___ line of thinking, there are some folks in Michigan who found they could save money by poisoning children.  Maybe we can learn something from them, too. Again, ____-____-____-____!

If there are any elected officials who would like to clean up my rant and use it, please feel free to plagiarize.  You have my permission and my blessing.

Which brings me back to where I started this post by saying I am hopeful for the effectiveness of our new legislature. In my last post I ranted about legislators who have already allowed the administration to lower the Mainecare threshold as low as they have, which is 100 percent of poverty.

I’m always trying to come up with benefit-of-the-doubt scenarios to salvage situations like this, and I’ve finally found one I can be at peace with, even if it’s way off-base. It’s a fragile bubble I’ve constructed, so please don’t burst it.

I’ve going to assume legislators who supported previous Mainecare cutting measures must have been operating on  assumptions of their own. Like maybe lawmakers assumed that DHHS officials had run the impact numbers for recipients, as far as their household budgets are concerned.

Maybe lawmakers also assumed DHHS officials had taken the cost of medication-assisted treatment into consideration, given our state’s rampant opiate addiction problem. I can see making the assumption that people running a program called Mainecare actually care that much about their recipients.

But maybe this session, lawmakers will see the folly in making assumptions where the DHHS is concerned.  And maybe if they actually listen to some recipients/former recipients of DHHS services who understand the fallout for recipients under this administration, lawmakers can learn why recipients could have warned them and spared them the folly.

I know I could have.

Patricia Callahan

About Patricia Callahan

Trish is a writer who lives in Augusta. She has worked professionally in education and social services.