Paul LePage and the Politics of Indifference

Paul LePage “won’t lift a finger,” but we can all still raise our hands.

In his blind and misguided pursuit of a government that “governs least,” Paul “Won’t Lift a Finger” LePage cut funding for smoking cessation services for MaineCare recipients.  That’s the old news.  The new news (yes, there are things to be thankful for) is that a coalition of public health organizations is now lobbying for restoration of these services.

The issue of smoking cessation funding provides a handy case study on the extreme short-sightedness and hypocrisy of the LePage administration.  The LePage slogan,  “People Before Politics,” is exposed as an utter farce when it stands in the daylight of this issue.

The facts of the issue are that every 33 cents Maine spends on smoking cessation also draws an additional $0.66 in federal funding — and, according to a Massachusetts study, over the long term prevents MaineCare recipients from needing $3.00 worth of medical treatment for smoking-related illnesses.

Let’s try that again:  for 33 cents now, Maine can save $3.00 later — and have a healthier citizenry to boot. Sounds good, right?

Apparently, not to Paul LePage, whose pogrom of budget cuts has given Maine the ignominious distinction of being one of only three states that does not pay for smoking cessation medications for  medicaid recipients.

Liberty, personal responsibility, even claims we just don’t have the money . . .  all these sound reasonable as artificial concepts. But when you consider that real people — mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, workers, employees — die from smoking related illnesses each day; when you consider the immense costs of treating smoking-related illnesses; when you consider that it is ultimately us who are paying for these treatments, it becomes clear that providing full funding for smoking cessation is the right thing to do.