AUGUSTA – 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.
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.