The debate in Augusta about whether to accept federal funds to cover low-income uninsured is hard to understand. Opponents argue that we cannot expand coverage until we reform the underlying MaineCare program, yet that is exactly the work that is under way. What more do they want?

The LePage administration has been hard at work on a number of initiatives explicitly designed to reform the program. Maine is one of only six states to receive a large federal grant to restructure how care is delivered and paid for. A program designed to reduce inappropriate emergency room use produced $8 million in savings and is now the basis for a broader program to bring costs under control and improve care.

Importantly, MaineCare has been developing its own version of managed care — Accountable Communities — that is ready to launch this spring. It took years to design and plan and it promises to improve care and reduce cost growth. These are very significant changes in the MaineCare program — they establish exactly what opponents say they want; a program in which the right care is provided at the right time at the right price.

Certainly the Department of Health and Human Services has had its share of problems. But that attention has obscured the good work under way to better manage the MaineCare program. That work reforms the program and brings savings. It needs to continue. Reform is well under way and must not be the excuse that keeps Maine from accepting the federal funds that will allow the working poor to have health care.

The American Lung Association strongly supports expanding health care coverage to more than 60,000 hard-working Maine people.

Matt SturgisAmerican Lung Association in MaineGray