THUMBS UP to Gov. Paul LePage for earmarking $7.8 million in state funds to counter federal cuts in reimbursement rates for independent primary care doctors treating MaineCare patients.

There is a lot to unpack in the governor’s $6.3 billion budget proposal, the full potential impact of which won’t be adequately sussed out for weeks. But making sure primary care physicians have the right financial incentives to see MaineCare patients is important, and it’s important LePage is making it a priority.

Under the plan, $2.9 million will keep MaineCare doctor reimbursement rates, temporarily increased using federal dollars under the Affordable Care Act, at current levels. Another $4.9 million will buttress reimbursements for doctors in the transformative “health homes” initiative, which is aimed at managing care for patients with chronic conditions.

Access to primary care is an issue in Maine, and by supporting it in the budget, the governor is supporting efforts to better patient health and lower overall health care costs.

THUMBS UP, tentatively, to comments made by LePage earlier this week recognizing Maine’s potential to become the “bread basket of New England.”

The comments echoes those made by LePage’s opponent in the last election, Democrat Mike Michaud.

Maine has more working farms than any other state in New England, and its small farms particularly are growing at a good rate. Harnessing the potential of those small producers is a key factor for the future of the Maine economy. To do that, the farms need better mechanisms for reaching large markets.

Small businesses are popping up in Maine and elsewhere to fill that need, but the state could do more to facilitate the distribution of local produce, poultry, meat and seafood.

LePage vetoed a bill last session that would have helped create food hubs, which aggregate, store, promote and deliver food from many small producers. He also vetoed a bill that would have helped get more Maine food into local schools.

In both cases, he cited what he saw as flaws in the legislation. In both cases, he should have worked with lawmakers to correct those flaws, not thrown out the ideas altogether.

Let’s hope LePage’s comments this week signal a willingness to revisit those proposals so that the emerging local food industry in Maine can prosper.

THUMBS DOWN to a recently published study making the case that sea levels are rising much faster than in the past, particularly along the East Coast of the United States.

Whatever one’s position on climate change, rising, warming oceans must be confronted, and their ecological and economic impacts planned for and dealt with. Maine is vulnerable to increased erosion, rising coastline insurance rates, and more severe storm damage.

Some coastal communities have already begin to discuss strategies for mitigating the problems that come from rising sea levels. A comprehensive statewide plan is needed to assess where Maine is most vulnerable, paving the way for action that protects the state’s valuable coastline.

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