TAMC to receive funds state owes

17 years ago

    AUGUSTA – The Maine Legislature enacted the state’s 2007 supplemental budget Feb. 8, and included in the package is a substantial back-payment from the state to The Aroostook Medical Center.
State Reps. Jeremy Fischer, D-Presque Isle, and Pat Sutherland, D-Chapman, voted in support of the bill that will deliver the funds as a major step toward the state’s promise to repay old debt to hospitals across Maine.
    The $127 million supplemental budget package, which adjusts spending for the rest of the fiscal year ending June 30, passed by a 138-5 margin in the House and a unanimous 34-0 vote in the Senate. Much of the money in the budget is dedicated to hospitals, both to repay old debt and to cover new health care costs expected through the rest of the year.
    The federal government is offering a 2-to-1 match for every state dollar, meaning TAMC is slated to receive approximately $3.1 million in total from state and federal funds.
    “TAMC provides essential services for citizens in central Aroostook County. I am proud that our state has begun to fulfill its obligations to it and other hospitals around the state,” said Fischer.
    Fischer is the House chair of the Legislature’s Appropriations Committee, which is responsible for overseeing the state budget, and ensured that funding for The Aroostook Medical Center was included in the final version of the bill.
    “TAMC plays such a vital role in our lives up here,” said Sutherland. “It isn’t simply here to care for our neighbors when they get sick, it also is involved in supporting community programs. It was very important to me to see that TAMC received the funds that they were owed. This was by far the most important piece of legislation to date that I have supported in Augusta.”
     The budget dedicates $20 million directly to outstanding payments owed to Maine hospitals, including around $1.1 million to The Aroostook Medical Center. The payments keep the state on schedule with the reimbursement agreement that Gov. John E. Baldacci reached with the state’s hospitals in the fall of 2006.
     The Appropriations Committee reported out a unanimous 13-0 vote endorsing the bill at the end of January, and it sailed through the House and Senate during the first week of February without any proposed amendments or any real debate. Because the bill was labeled “emergency legislation” and passed with more than two-thirds approval of both bodies, it went into effect immediately after it was signed into law by the governor.
    The budget also allocates up to $82 million toward Prospective Interim Payments (PIPs) to hospitals in order to cover new health care costs expected through the rest of the year. Fischer said that the increased PIPs will ensure that the hospital has ample resources from the state for the rest of the fiscal year.
     Other features of the 2007 supplemental budget include funding for flood relief in southern and western Maine; support for video-conferencing in the state courts; and a $3 million appropriation to develop a new high-speed optical network for the University of Maine System.