Medicaid expansion now faces fight in Augusta

PORTLAND, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- Less than 12 hours after the Medicaid expansion referendum supporters claimed victory in Tuesday’s voting, Gov. Paul LePage is promising not to implement expansion until the Legislature has fully funded it to the level he believes is needed.

The Governor is a long time opponent of expanding Medicaid, and has vetoed it five times already. On Tuesday, however, Maine voters gave strong support to expansion, passing it with about 59 percent of the vote. But in a press release Wednesday morning, Gov. LePage reiterated his belief that Maine can’t afford the state’s share of expanding the federal health coverage program:

Credit agencies are predicting that this fiscally irresponsible Medicaid expansion will be ruinous to Maine’s budget. Therefore, my administration will not implement Medicaid expansion until it has been fully funded by the Legislature at the levels DHHS has calculated, and I will not support increasing taxes on Maine families, raiding the rainy day fund or reducing services to our elderly or disabled.

The projected cost to Maine taxpayers — and therefore the state General Fund which covers most other programs — is a subject of debate between supporters and opponents. Supporters cite numbers from the Legislature’s fiscal office that show new costs but also some savings in other areas as a result of expansion. They say the net annual cost of expansion would be about $13.6 million the first year, and $33 million by year three.

The Maine Dept. of Health and Human Services, however, is projecting much higher costs. It says expansion would cost Mainers $63 million the first year and increase to $97 million by the third year.  The Governor’s statement indicates it is the DHHS figure on which he will rely.

Question 2 supporters said Tuesday night they will work with the Legislature to implement expansion, but also said, if the Governor’s opposition is insurmountable, they will be content to wait until 2019 when a new Governor and new Legislature will be in place.

© 2017 WCSH-TV


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