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Thursday, November 09, 2017

Maine Governor Paul LePage must accept voters will - Medicaid

Governor LePage is defiantly rejecting the will of the majority of Maine voters by defiling the decisive vote to approve the Medicaid Expansion on the November 7th Question 2 referendum. In his outrage about the democratic process that overruled his legislative vetoes, he is undermining the right of the people to implement an important health care initiative.

Maine Question 2 asked the following, stated on the ballot:

Do you want Maine to expand Medicaid to provide healthcare coverage for qualified adults under age 65 with incomes at or below 138% of the federal poverty level, which in 2017 means $16,643 for a single person and $22,412 for a family of two?

Overwhelmingly, the measure passed with 59.9 % voting "yes" and 41.1 % that voted "no".

Maine Voters Approve Medicaid Expansion, a Rebuke of Gov. LePage~ reported in The New York Times by Abby Goodnough

Maine Governor Paul LePage has no authority to obstruct the will of the people as decided on the Question 2 Medicaid Expansion ballot initiative

Voters in Maine approved a ballot measure on Tuesday, Nov. 7, to allow many more low-income residents to qualify for Medicaid coverage under the Affordable Care Act, The Associated Press said. The vote was a rebuke of Gov. Paul LePage, a Republican who has repeatedly vetoed legislation to expand Medicaid.

At least 80,000 additional Maine residents will become eligible for Medicaid as a result of the referendum. Maine will be the 32nd state to expand the program under the health law, but the first where voters, not governors or legislators, decided the issue. Other states whose leaders have resisted expanding the program were closely watching the campaign, particularly Utah and Idaho, where newly formed committees are working to get Medicaid expansion on next year’s ballots.

Supporters, including advocacy groups that collected enough signatures 
to get the question on the ballot, said the measure would help financially fragile rural hospitals, create jobs and provide care for vulnerable people who have long gone without.

Mr. LePage and other opponents, including several Republicans in the state Legislature, said Medicaid expansion would burden the taxpayers and the state budget, and described it as a form of welfare. (MaineWriter~ but the wrong minded opponents of this initiative neglect to inform voters about the Medicaid Expansion will attract millions of federal dollars to Maine.)

Instead, the erroneous response to this initiative from Mr. LePage was:

“The truth is that Medicaid expansion will just give able-bodied adults free health care,” Mr. LePage said in a recent radio address. “We don’t mind helping people get health care, but it should not be free. ‘Free’ is very expensive to somebody.”

On the other hand, the pro-expansion side may have benefited from energized public support for government health programs in a year when Donald Trump and Republicans in Congress tried repeatedly to repeal the Affordable Care Act and cut spending on Medicaid, which covers one in five Americans. 

Senator Susan Collins of Maine, one of the few Republicans who firmly opposed the repeal efforts, has been an outspoken defender of Medicaid, although she did not take a position on the ballot question.

The health law gives states the option of allowing any citizen with income up to 138 percent of the poverty level — $16,642 for an individual, $24,600 for a family of four — to qualify for Medicaid, which states and the federal government both pitch in to pay for.

Under the Affordable Care Act, the federal government picked up the cost of new enrollees under Medicaid expansion for the first three years and will continue to pay at least 90 percent. 

States cover a significantly larger portion of the expenses for the rest of their Medicaid population.

Maine’s Legislature, which is controlled by Democrats in the House and Republicans, by one vote, in the Senate, could try to block the referendum, but since it voted for Medicaid expansion five times already, supporters and opponents alike believe it is unlikely to meddle. 

And, Mr. LePage has no authority to veto the outcome, although he could try to delay putting it in place during his remaining year in office. Moreover, if Congress eventually succeeds in repealing the Affordable Care Act, states with expanded Medicaid will likely have to scale back their programs.

(MaineWriter- Governor LePage has no authority to veto a people's initiative duly voted on in an election. Even more important, he has no authority whatsoever to go against the repeated will of the people who have supported and passed this important initiative five times!)

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