AUGUSTA, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- The Maine legislature is in the middle of a serious struggle over expanding the Medicaid, or Maine Care program. And right now there seems little room for compromise.
The Legislature's Health and Human Services Committee is expecting a crowd for at least four hours of public hearing on the issue Wednesday. They got a preview today, as the consultant hired by the LePage Administration explained his study , and got plenty of criticism in return.
Democrats want to provide Maine Care health insurance to about 70-thousand more people, while Republicans say the state can't afford it. So Republicans are cheering the report from the LePage Administration's consultant, Gary Alexander, who says expanding Maine Care would cost more than $800 million over ten years.
Alexander's report says expanding Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act could put nearly 100,000 more people in the program over the next ten years. But Democrats on the Committee challenged Alexander's numbers, criticizing him for not including health care savings from more people insured, and resulting job increases for more health care workers. They also say many of his numbers are very different from those in other reports. DHHS Commissioner Mary Mayhew defended the report, and said her department has been facing many challenges trying to afford coverage for people already enrolled in Maine Care. Democrats say they think the numbers in the study were skewed to support the LePage Administration's views.
The same committee will hold a public hearing Wednesday on the actual Medicaid expansion proposal. The committee chairperson said she expects a large crowd , to support efforts to cover more people under the government insurance program.