Farm Bill Provision Will Disrupt MaineCare Program

Saturday, March 1, 2008 General News
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WASHINGTON, Feb. 29 A survey released today bySpectrum Science Communications states that a little known anti-privatizationmeasure in the current farm bill would critically harm Maine's ability toeffectively administer its MaineCare program. The measure, offered as anamendment to the House-passed Farm Bill by Rep. Joe Baca (D-CA), wouldrestrict all states from using non-profits and other private organizations inthe administration of public assistance programs.

Over 40 million needy children and adults would be affected by thedisruptions in service that would occur if the federal government takes awaystates' ability to partner with private firms and non-profit groups. Amongthose who would be affected are over 14 million enrollees in the Medicaid andThe State Children's Health Insurance Programs (SCHIP), 26 million food stamprecipients, and 1.9 million participants in the Temporary Assistance for NeedyFamilies (TANF) program.

"This provision will severely hamper the administration of hundreds ofsocial services programs in the U.S., affecting 310,000 recipients ofMaineCare," said Audrey Spolarich of Spectrum Science Communications.

The Spectrum study found that states such as Maine rely on non-governmentorganizations to assist in the administration of many means-tested socialservice programs. In Maine, a commercial firm provides Web administration forthe Women, Infant and Children (WIC) Supplemental Nutrition Program to over25,000 Maine residents. A private contractor works with the state of Maine toprocess and deliver benefits associated with it's ASPIRE (Additional Supportfor People in Retraining and Employment) program, which provides assistanceand work opportunities to an average of nearly 27,000 Mainers each month.

"As someone who has had to administer these programs to recipients, I cantell you first-hand how adversely impacted state governments will be if thisprovision passes," said former South Carolina Governor Jim Hodges. "In SouthCarolina and other states, important services like Medicaid and Child SupportEnforcement depend on commercial and non-profit support. We can't letWashington play politics with the administration of these vital programs."

All 50 states and the District of Columbia rely on non-profit andcommercial organizations to assist in the process of administering means-tested programs, according to the study. A total of 309 social servicesprograms in the United States are administered by private organizations, 207of which involve private contracts for direct beneficiary services.

The Baca amendment (Section 4015) specifically requires that only stateemployees be involved in any part of the process of administering food stampsto beneficiaries. States will not be able to opt out of this anti-privatization measure, even if outsourced programs have been more cost-effective and resulted in more enrolled beneficiaries in their states.

The provision "would deprive states of needed flexibility, remove asignificant means of innovation, bring to a halt many valuable programs now inplace," said Larry Goolsby Director of Legislative Affairs for the AmericanPublic Human Services Association (APHSA), a nonprofit, bipartisanorganization of state and local human service agencies.

The Baca amendment is not included in the Senate version of the farm bill.The House and Senate must reconcile their versions of the bill before thePresident can sign a measure into law.

About Spectrum Science Communications

Spectrum is the leading health-only communications practice among publicrelations firms in Washington, DC, employing more than 50 staff members, andserving pharmaceutical, biotechnology, patient advocacy, hospital and medicalsociety clients throughout the U.S.

Spectrum Science Communications is committed to achieving the goals ofclients who are involved with issues, products

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