Maine’s denial of federal funds leads to negative public health outcomes
Congresswoman Chellie Pingree today held a roundtable at the Capitol in Augusta to discuss ties between federal funding and the condition of Maine’s public health infrastructure.
In light of potential funding cuts from a repeal of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), Pingree heard from organizations in Maine about the importance of continued federal support. She also heard about the negative impacts to public health that have been caused by Maine’s forfeiture of federal funding in recent years.
“From addressing the terrible rate of overdose deaths in our communities to ensuring that newborns get a healthy start to helping people quit smoking, federal funds are key to the health of Maine people. And it’s a sound investment—research shows that every dollar spent on public health prevents $5.60 from having to be spent on health care,” Pingree said. “Today I had the chance to hear from people on the ground about how important these funds are for Maine and how disastrous it’s been for the state to leave so much of that money on the table. Maine people pay for that support with their federal taxes—not only are they being denied the benefits of it, but their health is suffering, too.”
"Promoting public health is a public safety issue. The opioid epidemic has shown that we must do more to educate people about the dangers of painkillers,” said Maine Attorney General Janet Mills. “Every death from a drug overdose was a preventable death. I commend Congresswoman Pingree for convening this roundtable and gathering this important information."
"Under the LePage administration, Mainers have suffered extraordinary losses in public health investments. As a result, we are facing serious health and economic challenges. Our state relies on federal funds, including those from the Prevention and Public Health Fund, to support Maine families and the economy,” said Becca Boulous, executive director of the Maine Public Health Association. “Applying for, accepting, and using federal funds, as intended, means more Mainers can get the resources they need to stay healthy and employed, and lessens the burden on local towns to always foot the bill. Congresswoman Pingree has been, and continues to be, a champion for public health, and we are grateful for the opportunity to join this important roundtable discussion today."
A recent report from the Maine Center for Economic Policy found that the state had forfeited $1.9 billion in federal funds since 2011. The executive summary of the report is available here.
“We all know that working together we can solve almost any problem. This is especially true when caring for Mainers’ health. Currently, too many Maine people are dying because of cuts to vital state public health services,” said Jody Harris, associate director of the Maine Center for Economic Policy. “Infant mortality is rising. Mainers have higher rates of colon cancer than elsewhere. Treatment for opioid addiction sufferers, a major public health challenge, is inexcusably lacking. And yet, the state is turning away federal funds that could help address these needs. This is unconscionable.”
The roundtable was also attended by:
• James Myall, Maine Center for Economic Policy
• Becky Smith, American Heart Association, Maine Chapter
• Carol Coles, American Cancer Society Maine Chapter
• Chris Feeney, American Cancer Society, Maine Chapter
• Lani Graham, Medical Professionals Health Program
• Lance Boucher, American Lung Association
• Naomi Anderson Schucker, MaineHealth
• Lisa Miller, The Bingham Program
• Adam Lacher, Alzheimer's Association Maine Chapter
The ACA created the Prevention and Public Health Fund (PPHF), which authorized $18.75 billion in mandatory funding between FY2010 and FY2022. Maine has received more than $39 million through the PPHF since 2010 for projects that included improving access to vaccinations; preventing diabetes, heart disease and obesity; and supporting epidemiology and laboratory capacity. Republicans in Congress have proposed eliminating the fund as part of ACA repeal.