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An Update on the Issues

Image-for-article-(1).jpgAs we draw closer to Election Day, we want to take this opportunity to tell you about the many important issues that matter to us and our patients here at Northern Light Health. Lisa Harvey-McPherson, RN, vice president of Governance Relations, Northern Light Health, shared the following highlights with us:
 
The Maine Scene
Many Northern Light Health-supported initiatives were passed into law recently including MaineCare funding for nursing homes and homecare providers, legislation that created a commission to study challenges affecting Maine’s direct-care workforce, and critically important legislation that created a statewide hub-and-spoke model of care for substance use disorder treatment.
 
Additionally, the legislature voted to override the Governor’s veto of legislation to expand the McAuley Residence model of recovery for women, with and without children, who are in recovery from drug and alcohol dependency. We expect the Department of Health and Human Services to issue a request-for-proposal this fall to expand this highly successful model of recovery care. McAuley Residence is a department of Northern Light Mercy Hospital, in which 80% of women who enter the program remain clean and sober.  
 
The long journey toward expanding MaineCare health insurance coverage continues with the court directing Governor LePage to submit necessary documents to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to expand MaineCare coverage made available by the Affordable Care Act. In complying with the court directive, Governor LePage asked CMS to deny the expansion application until such time as the Maine Legislature authorizes sustainable revenue sources to offset the incremental cost to the State of Maine. 
 
The National Scene
Members of Congress are working to pass comprehensive opioid legislation that will become effective upon signature of the President. Proposals affect treatment and recovery, funding, research, workforce, prevention, drug laws and fraud prevention. 
 
At the end of July, CMS proposed to reduce Medicare payments for provider services within hospital off-campus outpatient departments. However, legislation passed in 2015 preserved Medicare payment rates for these departments and the new proposal contradicts the intent of Congress and reduces payment. This rule, which does not include Critical Access Hospitals, could result in a nearly $9 million reimbursement cut in 2019 to Northern Light Health members. We are working closely with the Maine Hospital Association, American Hospital Association, and Maine’s congressional delegation to ask that CMS not include the payment reduction in the final rule expected in early November. 
 
Get out and vote!
It is also a busy election season in Maine as we have candidates running for governor, congress, and every legislative district on the November ballot. Voters will be asked to vote on an important referendum question that creates a new 3.8 % tax and assigns the resources to a new Universal Home Care Board of Directors. For each referendum initiative, there is underlying legislation, which in this case is LD 1864, An Act To Establish Universal Home Care for Seniors and Persons with Disabilities. All four gubernatorial candidates oppose the proposed referendum as drafted. The Maine Hospital Association and the Home Care & Hospice Alliance of Maine have also voted to oppose the referendum. We encourage you to read the position statements of both organizations and read the underlying legislation posted on the legislature’s website.  
 
Voters will also have an opportunity to vote on bond question four, which asks voters to approve $49 million in bond funding to modernize and improve the facilities and infrastructure of Maine's public universities. The University of Maine System plans to invest significant bond resources to expand nursing student enrollment across the campuses. This is an important step forward to address Maine’s nursing workforce shortage projected to be 3,200 registered nurses by 2025.   
 
We’re working hard to make sure our patients and communities receive a higher standard of care that is innovative and efficient. Work with us, stay informed, and let us know about the issues that matter to you.
 
Here are a few resources:
Maine’s upcoming election information including ballot questions are here: https://www.maine.gov/sos/cec/elec/upcoming/index.html
 
Stay connected with state and local issues that matter to us at:
www.northernlighthealth.org/advocacy
 
Read the Maine Hospital Association and The Home Care & Hospice Alliance of Maine positions on ballot question one here:
http://www.themha.org/policy-advocacy/Issues/Home-Healthcare-Referendum/MHA-Statement-Tax-Home-Care-Referendum
http://homecarealliance.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/Position-Statement-Universal-Home-Care-FINAL.pdf