Commentary

Strout: The Media’s Inexplicable Attack On DHHS

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In the past few weeks, media outlets have slammed Maine’s Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) for the growing number of uninsured children in Maine.

According to numbers from the US Census Bureau, that number has risen from 4% in 2010 to 6%.  In a MPBN report, the writer attempts to correlate the growing uninsured rate with Medicaid eligibility cuts enacted by Governor Paul R. LePage and DHHS.  The insinuation for most of this story is that DHHS has kicked thousands of children off of health insurance.

Only in the tenth paragraph does the writer acknowledge that these children are still eligible for health insurance.  Children are categorically eligible for Medicaid.  Even if the governor or DHHS wanted to kick children off of Medicaid, which there is absolutely no reason to suspect that they do, they could not.

Why then, is DHHS being blamed for the increase in uninsured children?

In the latter part of the story, MPBN blames DHHS for not adequately explaining to families that even if parents are dropped from Medicaid, their children would still be eligible.  MPBN was later joined in this assessment by an editorial from the Portland Press Herald.

Neither story, however, gives any solid evidence to support that conclusion.  The only support given, in fact, are a few unsubstantiated comments from a couple individuals; Emily Brostek of Consumers for Affordable Health Care and Claire Berkowitz of the Maine Children’s Alliance.

What’s strange is that both of those organizations exist in order to help individuals and families up for health insurance and, you guessed it, Medicaid.  Both organizations receive hundreds of thousands of dollars in taxpayer dollars to get people on Medicaid. Their job is to do exactly what they’re claiming DHHS should be doing.

When the numbers were released showing that the number of uninsured children in Maine has risen, the media should have gone to Consumers for Affordable Health Care (CAHC) and the Maine Children’s Alliance (MCA) and asked them why they’ve failed to sign up more children for the insurance that they’re qualified for.  The media should have asked them why they’ve spent so much taxpayer money with so little to show for it.  Instead the media went up to them and asked them who’s to blame for the unacceptable number of uninsured children in Maine.

Of course, CAHC and MCA weren’t going to admit that they had failed in their mission.  Instead, they blamed DHHS for failing to make it clearer to families that children could not be kicked off Medicaid, even though it was their mission to communicate that very message.

Instead of taking the bait and attacking DHHS, the media should take a closer look at exactly how these two advocacy groups are spending taxpayers’ money. Both CAHC and MCA need to answer for the growing number of uninsured children in Maine and their stewardship of taxpayer dollars.

 

About Nathan Strout

Nathan Strout is a Development Associate with The Maine Heritage Policy Center as well as a staff writer for The Maine Wire. Born and raised in Portland, Strout is a graduate of Eastern University with a B.A. in Political Science and a minor in Legal Studies.

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