© 2023 Maine Public | Registered 501(c)(3) EIN: 22-3171529
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Maine Hospitals Say Cuts In Supplemental Budget Are Deeper Than They Appear

Tom Porter
Maine Public file

Maine hospitals are expressing concerns about a reduction in reimbursements that’s included in Gov. Janet Mills proposed supplemental state budget. They say what appears to be a small cut will cost them millions of dollars in future years.

At first glance, the $300,000 cut to payments hospitals receive for outpatient services does not seem too significant, but Jeff Austin of the Maine Hospital Association says the language continues the cut into future budgets.

“It is a cut to hospital outpatient reimbursement. The supplemental budget is listed as a $300,000 cut. The cut actually total is carried forward into the biennium. When this is fully implemented, this is a $7 million-a-year cut,” he says.

Some hospitals testified in opposition to the proposal Tuesday before the state Appropriations Committee. Katie Harris of the state’s largest health care provider, MaineHealth, said the organization provides services in 11 of the state’s 16 counties and experienced significant losses from the pandemic.

“It will impact us to the tune of about $3.1 million annually, so it is something we can ill afford right now,” she says.

Austin says overall hospitals receive hundreds of millions of dollars a year in state reimbursement for services provided under MaineCare, the state’s name for Medicaid. He says the pandemic has caused havoc on hospital budgets — about $650 million in losses — while emergency federal funding covered about $350 million.

“It is simply wrong during a pandemic to ask your members who are on the front line fighting this pandemic and have been doing it since Day One to be one of the few policy cuts in this budget,” he says.

In a statement, Health and Human Services spokesperson Robert Long said the proposal is the result of a federal requirement and would “right size reimbursements.” He said the department has been working with providers, including hospitals on the proposal.

Hearings on the supplemental budget continue this week with the Appropriations Committee starting work on what they will recommend to the full Legislature next week.

Journalist Mal Leary spearheads Maine Public's news coverage of politics and government and is based at the State House.