A study released today says expanding Medicaid in Maine could cost the state more than $807 million-dollars over the next decade. But there are some in Augusta who say the study isn’t worth the paper its printed on.
Friday afternoon at the Department of Health and Human Services in Augusta, the long awaited study examining the feasibility of expanding Maine’s Medicaid program under Obamacare was released to the public. Democrats have said the expansion of the program, also know as MaineCare, would cover 70,000 people, would be paid for 100% by federal dollars for the first three years and would save Maine more than $600 million in the long run.
The Alexander Group study paints a far different picture. Gary Alexander, one of the authors of the study, says expanding Medicaid will cost the state more than $800 million in the first 10 years while enrollment in the program will jump from 318,000 to 584,000 people. Meaning MaineCare could soon account for 38.7% of the entire state budget. It’s a program that DHHS Commissioner Mary Mayhew says is already out of control and expanding it would be fiscally irresponsible.
“Clearly Maine cannot afford this type of expense. The Medicaid program for more than a decade has been in a constant state of financial crisis,” Mayhew said Friday.
Alexander says if every state does what the Obama administration wants and expands Medicaid, 52% of Americans would be enrolled in the program.
“We would have close to 85 million people in this country by the year 2021 on the Medicaid program. The total cost would grow by close to 95% and grow to $830 billion.”
Democrats were quick to dismiss the study as a political stunt paid for with Maine tax dollars.
“There’s nothing in this report that is a surprise,” said Senate President Justin Alfond. “this is essentially the same report that Alexander wrote for two other states.”
“The governor hired a Tea Party consultant to deliver an ideological politically driven message,” added Maine House Speaker Mark Eves. “The people should take this for what it is. A partisan political document that the governor paid tax dollars for.”
Democrats have repeatedly raised questions about Alexander’s background, specifically accusing him of costing Pennsylvania $7 million with his recommendations and taking healthcare away from 90,000 kids in that state. When asked about those allegations, Alexander and Mayhew refused to answer.
“No. I think it’s important that you focus on the report. the magnitude of what we are saying. i’m not gonna waste my time, the department’s time, the state’s time,” a clearly agitated Mayhew said.
When Mayhew was told by a reporter that these were accusations coming from Democrats she responded by saying:
“I don’t care.”
Governor LePage is likely to veto any Medicaid expansion bill that hits his desk which means Democrats will likely need a lot of Republican support in order to override that veto. The question now becomes, does the release of this report make garnering Republican support more difficult?
“I really don’t think so,” Eves said. “I think the individuals that we’re talking with in the building here, it’s a bipartisan effort.”
Gary Alexander is scheduled to testify in front of the Health and Human Services Committee next Tuesday at noon where he likely won’t be able to dodge questions about the allegations made by Democrats.