Public Weighs In On Medicaid Expansion Debate 

Politicians have spent the past year sparring in the media over whether or not to expand the MaineCare program. It was the public’s turn to weigh in.

Shortly after maine speaker of the house mark eves introduced his bill that he says would expand the MaineCare program under Obamacare to cover 70,000 uninsured Mainers, including thousands of veterans, members of the public got to chime in.

Eves told lawmakers the bill includes a sunset provision allowing the state to withdraw from the federal program after three years, when the federal government begins to gradually lower its share of the cost from 100 percent to no less than 90 percent.

Nancy Stein of Richmond showed up to testify in favor of the measure. She works multiple jobs but none of them offer health insurance. Her income makes her just barely ineligible for subsidies under the Affordable care act.

“According to the Kaiser Family Foundation subsidy calculator, I would have to pay $7,518 per year which is 76% of my household income. I simply can’t afford it. No one could. I urge the committee to accept the federal funding to expand MaineCare to help thousands of hard working Maine citizens obtain health insurance,” Stein told the committee.

Those opposed to the idea of expanding MaineCare also had there voices heard, telling lawmakers that Maine’s welfare services are already too generous.

“I don’t think that expanding Medicaid to non-disabled Mainers is the proper role for government,” Paula Sutton, a Warren resident said. “I think over generations of increasing welfare generosity in this state, many people have forgotten or have never learned to care for themselves.”

The Medicaid expansion bill could be headed down a familiar path with Governor LePage’s veto pen looming. If LePage does veto the bill, Democrats will have to rally enough Republican support in order to override that veto. Their attempt to do so in that session fell just short in the House of Representatives. Many Republicans believe expanding MaineCare could cost the state close to a billion dollars over the next decade. Others believe that it’s simply not morally right to expand MaineCare coverage to what they classify as “able-bodied” Mainers when more than 3,000 disabled and elderly are still languishing on a wait list for Medicaid services.

A spokesperson for the Maine House Republicans says members of that caucus are even more skeptical of Medicaid expansion now than they were last session. But he stopped short of saying whether or not there are enough House Republicans who would cross the aisle to override a potential LePage veto.

If that happens the Maine Senate will be the site of Medicaid expansion’s last stand. Senate Republican Leader Mike Thibodeau said it’s not likely an override attempt would gain much traction with the more conservative Senate Republicans.

“Of course we don’t anticipate that we’ll be the last line of defense. We fully anticipate the House will reject this notion as well,” Thibodeau said Wednesday. “I think we’ll be in support of sustaining any sort of veto. That’s a ways down the road. We gotta remember Rob, this is the same program that has caused $120 million shortfall in the current budget and now we’re talking about expanding that program when we can’t even fix the $120 million budget hole? We gotta work on that.”