Maine Voters Greenlight Medicaid Expansion, But Governor Says Whoa

AP

Print Article

[protected-iframe id="45499f7ee40a1953792b45e8a445aefa-7618883-99279322" info="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/562758848/562903286" width="100%" height="270" frameborder="0" scrolling="no"]

Just hours after Maine voters became the first in the nation to use the ballot box to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, Republican Gov. Paul LePage said  he wouldn’t implement it  unless the Legislature funds the state’s share of an expansion.

“Give me the money and I will enforce the referendum,” LePage said. Unless the Legislature fully funds the expansion — without raising taxes or using the state’s rainy day fund — he said he wouldn’t implement it.

LePage has long been a staunch opponent of Medicaid expansion. The Maine Legislature has passed bills to expand the insurance program five times since 2013, but the governor vetoed each one.

That track record prompted Robyn Merrill, co-chair of the coalition Mainers for Health Care, to take the matter directly to voters Tuesday.

The strategy worked. Medicaid expansion, or Question 2, passed handily, with 59 percent of voters in favor and 41 percent against.

“Maine is sending a strong and weighty message to politicians in Augusta, and across the country,” Merrill said. “We need more affordable health care, not less.”

Medicaid expansion would bring health coverage to  about 70,000 people  in Maine.

As a battle now brews over implementation in Maine, other states will likely be watching: groups in Idaho and Utah are trying to put Medicaid expansion on their state ballots next year.

With passage of the ballot measure, Maine is poised to join the 31 states and the District of Columbia that have already expanded Medicaid to cover adults with incomes up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level. That’s about $16,000 dollars for an individual, and about $34,000 for a family of four.

Currently, people in Maine who make too much for traditional Medicaid and who aren’t eligible for subsidized health insurance on the federal marketplace fall into a coverage gap. It was created when the Supreme Court made Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act optional.

That’s the situation Kathleen Phelps finds herself in. She’s a hairdresser from Waterville who has emphysema and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. She said she has had to forgo her medications and oxygen because she can’t afford them. “Finally, finally, maybe people now people like myself can get the health care we need,” she said.

Medicaid expansion would also be a win for hospitals. More than half of those in Maine are operating in the red. Across the state, hospitals provide more than $100 million a year in charity care, according to the Maine Hospital Association. Expanding Medicaid coverage will bolster their fiscal health and give doctors and nurses more options to treat their formerly uninsured patients, said Jeff Austin, a spokesman with the association.

“There are just avenues of care that open up when you see a patient from recommending a prescription drug or seeing a counselor,” he said. “Doors that were closed previously will now be open.”

But voter approval may not be enough. Though a legislative budget analysis office estimates Medicaid expansion would bring about $500 million in federal funding to Maine each year, it would also cost the state about $50 million a year.

The fate of the Medicaid expansion will now be in the hands of the Legislature, where lawmakers can change it like any other bill. Four ballot initiatives passed by Maine voters last year have been delayed, altered or overturned.

But state Democratic leaders pledge to implement the measure. “Any attempts to illegally delay or subvert the law … will be fought with every recourse at our disposal,” Speaker of the House Sara Gideon said. “Mainers demanded affordable access to health care yesterday, and that is exactly what we intend to deliver.”

This story is part of a partnership that includes  Maine Public,  NPR  and Kaiser Health News.

Print Article

Read More National News

FACT CHECK: Out-of-context comments inflate stabbing statistics

AP

November 17, 2017 at 5:00 am | FACT CHECK: Out of context comments inflate stabbing statistics Mass shootings are on the rise. This year has seen the Las Vegas massacre and two church shooting...

Comments

Read More

Roadwork in Boone County begins next week

AP

November 17, 2017 at 11:00 am | Boone County drivers will have to deal with roadwork along sections of Interstate 70 and Route HH, according to a Missouri Department of Transportation news release. Roadwork on I-70 between the ...

Comments

Read More

Destination Moberly: A small town hopes to reinvent itself as a tourist spot

AP

November 17, 2017 at 5:00 am | Diane Richardson of Main Street Moberly recognizes that to many outsiders, Moberly is just another small town they pass while traveling north or south on U.S. 63. But for a resident of the "Magic Cit...

Comments

Read More

Melissa Straw, March 8, 1970 — Oct. 29, 2017

AP

November 17, 2017 at 11:36 am | An idealistic spirit, a compassionate teacher, a dynamic presence, Melissa Marie Lock Straw, 47, died Oct. 29, 2017. Melissa was a loving mother, spouse, daughter, and sister, an engaging personality...

Comments

Read More

Contact Us

(208) 263-9534
PO Box 159
Sandpoint, ID 83864

©2017 Bonner County Daily Bee Terms of Use Privacy Policy
X