Voters Say No to Universal Home Care Initiative

Maine voters have overwhelmingly shot down a state-level proposal to create a universal home care program.

The proposal — Question 1 — would have provided free, home-based care to adults over the age of 65 and individuals with disabilities. To do so, the universal home care program would have taxed high-income households, though critics of the proposal have argued others would have been affected as well.

Nearly 362,000 Mainers voted in opposition to Question 1 on Tuesday, with fewer than 215,000 state residents supporting the initiative. That breakdown put more than six out of every 10 voters in Maine against the tax-funded universal home care proposal, a first-of-its-kind measure that has served as an interesting case study for future home care plans across the United States.

The Home Care and Hospice Alliance of Maine, The Maine Chamber of Commerce, Spectrum Health Care Partners and Maine Hospital Association are among the organizations that rallied against Question 1.

The Maine Hospital Association stood against the universal home care proposal for several outlined reasons, including questions regarding federal labor and health privacy laws. Additionally, any universal home care program implemented in Maine should first go through Maine’s legislative branch, the association also argued.

“Question 1 was a flawed proposal and Maine voters agreed,” Jeffrey Austin, vice president of government affairs and communications for Maine Hospital Association, told Home Health Care News. “We believe the Legislature is well suited to review the issue of long-term care and craft solutions that build on what’s working in Maine.”

About 27,000 Maine residents would have been eligible for the universal home care program, according to a University of Southern Maine Muskie School of Public Service analysis using 2016 population figures. In 2016, slightly more than 5,6000 people in Maine were already accessing publicly-funded community-based long-term services and supports.

Groups supporting Question 1 included The Alliance for Retired Americans and Caring Across Generations. Maine People’s Alliance, a grassroots organization that focuses on a variety of issues, created and spearheaded efforts to pass the universal home care initiative.

“We  are incredibly proud of the hundreds of volunteers who placed universal home care on the ballot and who fought so hard to make forward progress against some daunting headwinds in this campaign,” Yes on One  Campaign Manager Ben Chin said in a statement provided to HHCN. “We’re also proud to have put Maine’s home care crisis front and center in the public debate.”

The percentage of Americans age 65 and older is increasing on a national level — but even faster in Maine.

From 2000 to 2032, the percent of Americans age 65 and older is projected to almost double from 12% to 20%, according to U.S. Census data and University of Southern Maine projections. In comparison, nearly 30% of Maine’s population will be age 65 and older by 2032.

“Seniors are being forced from their homes every day,” Chin said. “We take politicians across the state at their words that they are now committed to taking real action. We’ll be turning our full attention to the legislature to make sure that they do.”

Although only a small portion of older adults have a disability at any one time, the rate of disability increases with age, according to University of Southern Maine. About 9% of people age 18 to 34 have a disability in Maine, while 50% of those over 75 have a disability.

While a full-fledged universal home care program would have been a first for the country, some states have already taken action to at least partially fund home care programs beyond traditional payment streams.

Hawaii consumers are partially supported by the state’s Kupuna Caregivers Program, which gives eligible families up to $70 per day to help pay for certain in-home services.

Written by Robert Holly

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Robert Holly
When Robert's not covering the latest in home health care news, you can likely find him rooting for the White Sox or roaming his neighborhood streets playing Pokemon Go. Before joining HHCN, Robert covered everything from big agribusiness to the hottest tech startups. 

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