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Voters to Decide Medicaid Expansion in Maine

Since 2012, the Legislature has approved Medicaid expansion five times, and five times Governor Paul LePage has vetoed the measure. (landrachuk/Pixabay)
Since 2012, the Legislature has approved Medicaid expansion five times, and five times Governor Paul LePage has vetoed the measure. (landrachuk/Pixabay)
November 6, 2017

PORTLAND, Maine -- On Tuesday, voters in Maine will be the first in the nation to determine by ballot referendum if the state should expand Medicaid.

Since 2012, the Legislature has approved Medicaid expansion five times, and five times Gov. Paul LePage has vetoed the measure. But if the referendum passes, the governor won't be able to block the expansion. And according to David Farmer with Mainers for Health Care, thousands in the state will gain access to affordable health insurance.

"Question 2 would provide health care coverage to more than 70,000 Mainers, including working moms, veterans, people with disabilities and people who are older and haven't yet qualified for Medicare,” Farmer said.

LePage has argued that by 2020, the state would have to pick up 10 percent of the cost of the expansion, forcing him to divert $54 million from other programs. But providing care to people with no insurance is currently costing Maine's public hospitals more than $100 million a year.

Farmer said the Medicaid expansion would be a net economic gain for the state.

"For Maine's investment, we would draw back more than $500 million a year in new revenue,” Farmer said. "That's enough to create more than 6,000 new jobs all across the state."

He noted that blocking the expansion already has cost the state more than $1.2 billion in new revenue.

Although congressional attempts to repeal the Affordable Care Act so far have failed, President Donald Trump is trying to destabilize the program through executive actions. Farmer said he believes that adds national significance to Tuesday's vote in Maine.

"I think it's more important now than ever for Maine to send a message to Washington that people want more health care, not less health care,” he said.

Health advocates in Idaho and Utah are hoping to put Medicaid expansion on the ballot in their states next year.

More information on Question 2 is available here.

Andrea Sears, Public News Service - ME