Our legislative representative, Stephanie Hawke, recently made a public appearance with a group opposing the expansion of Medicaid in Maine and voicing an extremist claim that Medicaid is “not insurance, but welfare.”
In my career as a medical sociologist, a professor in three different medical schools, and as professor and chair of a Research I university sociology department, I have become all too painfully aware that Medicaid serves a very useful place in our health care system. Medical care has become extremely costly and no longer is organized to provide free care to low income people. Medicaid allows the medically indigent to have access to continuing care and provides finances to keep the system running for the rest of us.
It is the case that almost all of us have a high chance of needing Medicaid at some point in our lives. Medicare provides only 90 days of post-hospitalization nursing home care. After that, we must use our own resources as long as we have them. Median income in Lincoln County is just above $50,000. The average cost of nursing home care in Maine is $98,000, with higher costs in the southern counties. It doesn’t take advanced statistics to understand that most people needing long term care will spend themselves into poverty quickly. Once they reach that point, Medicaid is a life line that allows care to continue.
Medicaid is not “welfare,” if we understand that term to mean only assistance to the poor. It is insurance, not just for the poor, but for the middle class.
I hope Rep. Hawke will reassess her position and support Medicaid expansion in Maine. If she doesn’t, I hope she will be replace by someone who will.
Andrew C. Twaddle