State's Mental Health Plan: "Pay More, Get Less"
Hello, and welcome. As you know today is June 7, 2006, or as some might say 6-7-6. We are holding this press conference to discuss the alarming notion of privatizing behavioral healthcare on this date because of HR 676, the house bill sponsored by Congressman Conyers calling for universal healthcare in our nation.
Today I am very sorry to announce that we here in Maine are headed further away from that goal of universal healthcare and dangerously in the wrong direction.
"On July 1st an RFP will go out to managed care companies around the nation asking for bids to parcel out Maines mental healthcare needs for the poor in Maine. It will go to everywhere in the country but Maine "
— Pat LaMarche
On July 1st an RFP will go out to managed care companies around the nation asking for bids to parcel out Maines mental healthcare needs for the poor in Maine. It will go to everywhere in the country but Maine unless we have some providers in the state who aren't already providing services, as only non-current providers may bid on the project.
The role of all healthcare, not just mental healthcare is to keep people healthy; or, in the event that they are in poor health, to bring them to wellness. Ask any doctor or nurse whey they do what they do and theyll tell you that the ultimate goal is to save lives. Privatizing mental health and cutting desperately needed resources to the Maine providers and recipients works against that life-saving directive.
For example, the Portland Press Herald had a story on Feb 25, 2005, stating that Maine has the highest teen suicide rate in New England, so high in fact, that the current governor by executive order convened a task force to study the issue. According to the article, "From 1999 to 2001, Maine's suicide rate for 15- to 19-year-olds was 72 percent higher than New England's and nearly 50 percent higher than the national rate. Some 130 young people ages 10 to 24 killed themselves in Maine between 1998 and 2003."
In another article in the same paper on Nov. 16, 2004, one of the reasons sighted for Maine's high suicide rate, was a lack of available services. It's terrifying but true that Maine is about to head further in the wrong direction.
Remove from these kids what limited services they already have and we are writing the recipe for disaster. Research conducted by the Marillac Clinic in Coloado supports these findings. In a recent report they found that the risk of mental illness doubled for low-income, uninsured populations. In fact, People with low incomes and no insurance are nearly twice as likely as the general population to have psychiatric disorders, according to a study presented in the 2001 Journal of Family Practice. Researchers in Colorado found that the quality of life could be improved if mental health care were provided in primary care settings.
Additionally on a National Public radio broadcast of Morning Edition October 15 of 2003, they stated that, "Mental health problems are more common in poor people than in other segments of American society. Social scientists have long wondered whether poverty causes the problems, or whether the problems cause poverty."
According to the United States Census bureau, Maine's poverty rate is over 10% and we have the oldest state in the union. This RFP applies to services for the old and the poor. Maine turning its back on its most vulnerable members of society is unconscionable.
This information, while startling and stunning when I first learned of it, should really be no surprise. Our current administration has moved toward privatizing our government entities since it took office.
"Our current administration has moved toward privatizing our government entities since it took office."
— Pat LaMarche
First the profitable liquor industry, which New Hampshire has used to their credit as an agent for lowering state taxes, then the profitable lottery appeared in their cross hairs, that just hurt our pocket books as taxpayers.
Now mental health? That hurts our community, our grandparents and our children. The only way for an out-of-state managed-care company to make this work will be to cut services and force down the rates paid to our already over-worked providers.
Cutting services to the poor and elderly for mental health? I have to ask, what's next? The police department? The fire department? If your house caught fire, would you want an out-of-state and/or for-profit company to decide the profitability of putting it out?
As a member of the media, I was horrified to think that I hadn't heard anything about the state's plans for managed care for Medicaid and Medicare recipients. Maybe you are, too. Until I started hearing from providers and stake holders around the state that this was happening, it didn't even show up on the radar. That's how these things get passed. Behind closed doors with no one to advocate for those affected.
And if you think it doesn't affect anyone but the mentally ill or those who care for them, think again. 20.8 million lost in federal dollars to deal with these critical issues and untreated folks suffering in our very communities.
Those things hurt all of us. And on this day where the entire nation is rallying for universal health care, it's glaringly irresponsible.