As fate of Medicaid expansion uncertain, MeHAF drops $600k moneybomb

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mehafAUGUSTA – The Augusta-based Maine Health Access Foundation announced Wednesday it has given awards worth nearly $670,000 to liberal political activists, a money bomb the foundation hopes will increase legislative support for a bill to expand Medicaid.

MeHAF, a charitable foundation with more than $110,000,000 in assets, was formed following the sale of Blue Cross of Maine, a non-profit charitable health care insurer, to Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield, a for-profit insurer; MeHAF was legally incorporated in April of 2000 using proceeds from the sale as an endowment.

When charities dissolve, Maine state law requires that their assets be used to fulfill the original charitable purpose. This is known as the Cy-près doctrine.

At the time of MeHAF’s formation, there was a pitched debate in Augusta over whether MeHAF would become a slush-fund for progressive political activists. Now, those fears seem largely justified, as part of MeHAF’s more than $110,000,000 endowment is now flowing into one side of the political fight over Medicaid expansion.

MeHAF has offered the following explanation for the grants: “The expansion of Medicaid to provide coverage for individuals and families with low incomes was a key strategy of the ACA to decrease the number of Americans who are uninsured. However, the 2012 U.S. Supreme Court ruling essentially made the choice to expand Medicaid a state decision. The advocacy organizations receiving support from MeHAF will help inform the discussion by Maine policymakers about this key decision. Grantees will also present the stories of real Maine people who are directly impacted by a decision for or against an expansion.”

The grants include $150,000 to Consumers for Affordable Health Care, $135,000 to Maine Center for Economic Policy, $149,042 to Maine Equal Justice Partners, $133,975 to the Maine Medical Education Trust, and $100,000 to the Maine People’s Resource Center, the 501(c)3 arm of the controversial Maine People’s Alliance.

Although the MeHAF grants do not derive from taxpayers, some of its grantees do pull additional funding from the public trough.

Maine Equal Justice Partners (MEJP), an advocacy non-profit with an active presence in the State House, received, from Nov. 2012 to Oct. 2013, more than $200,000 from tax payers, courtesy of the Maine Civil Legal Services Fund.

According to Consumers for Affordable Health Care (CAHC)’s 2011 tax filings, the group took in more than $550,000 in government grants that year.

MeHAF’s grants come relatively late in the game for proponents of expanding Medicaid pursuant to President Barack Obama’s signature health care law.

Last year’s push to expand eligibility for the welfare program to more than 70,000 young, able-bodied adults failed to surmount Republican Gov. Paul LePage’s veto. In October, Democratic leaders ignored legislative rules to resurrect the once-dead proposal.

The second vote on expansion is expected to happen soon, but MeHAF’s decision to drop a $600,000 money-bomb into the debate may be a sign that Democratic leaders are not confident they have enough votes to override LePage’s inevitable veto.

4 COMMENTS

  1. When are Repubs going to “get it” that most people believe our citizens should have affordable healthcare? If the “legislators” here and nationally understood what average citizens already know, one cannot pay for healthcare if one has a crappy minimum wage job, or no job at all. Why do you hate the poor? Do you honestly believe everyone has the same opportunities and family support as most of you? Just because the Guv’nah pulled himself up by his bootstraps, the truth is, he had help. Healthcare is a matter of priorities and Repubs can rail against young adults without children, but don’t these people get sick too? If people can’t pay, they go to the emergency room where collectively taxpayers get stuck with the bill from these exorbitantantly priced non-profits known as hospitals!

  2. Janet – We do believe that citizens should have “affordable” healthcare. The argument we have is that 807 Million is not “affordable” just to add able bodied non disabled adults with no children, especially when we are looking at a 119Million funding gap this year alone without the expansion and when we still have disabled adults trying to get Medicaid but are looking at a 4+ years waiting list. Legislators have raised our taxes, gotten rid of tax credits and we still have no money. Where should we get this money?? Don’t forget – We still need to find money to revenue share with the towns, fund schools, fund Maine’s pension fund, and other worthy projects (they are all looking at substantial cuts because Medicaid is eroding their funding).

  3. How can the average Maine citizen ever hope to fight organizations like this? They are in effect buying the votes of our legislators. It is not just the money but the pressure they put on these people that will eventually cause this idea to become law whether it is good for the State of Maine or not.

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