The people of Maine went to the polls yesterday and voted to expand Medicaid under Obamacare by an overwhelming margin of nearly 60 to 40, but Governor Paul LePage is not ready to accept the results of this decisive vote.
LePage released a statement this morning claiming he will not implement Medicaid expansion unless the state legislature appropriates an amount of funding for the program that LePage pulled straight out of his ass.
AUGUSTA – Governor Paul R. LePage has issued a statement in response to Mainers approving a referendum that will cost taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars to give “free” health care to working-age, able-bodied adults, most of whom do not have dependents.
“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.”
LePage has threatened to do many things, like sue his own secretary of state if Medicaid expansion wasn't described as "welfare" on the ballot initiative, but he rarely follows through on any of them. It remains to be seen what he will do in this case, but it doesn't appear that he has the authority to block expansion now that the state has voted for it.
Mainers for Health Care, the organization behind the campaign to expand Medicaid, said despite LePage’s bluster, he can’t stop the expansion train without violating state law.
“Under the state constitution, 45 days after the legislature reconvenes, Medicaid expansion will become the law of the state,” the group’s spokesman David Farmer told TPM. “According to the statute, the Department of Health and Human Services has 90 days after that to submit an implementation plan to the federal government, and the implementation itself will take place in mid-August of 2018.”
I'm sure everyone that's reading this knows better, but I can't let it go unaddressed.
LePage is absolutely wrong about the costs of Medicaid expansion. And it's not "free." The people of Maine are already paying for Medicaid expansion right now even if they can't access it. The federal government currently covers 95 percent of the cost of Medicaid expansion and will still cover 90 percent of the cost in 2020 and beyond. Federal taxpayers who live in Maine are already paying for it.
LePage claims Medicaid expansion will cost the state $100 million per year, which is a relatively small number in the grand scheme of things, but he's also wrong about that. The current cost to the state will be roughly half that or around $55 million according to the Maine Office of Fiscal and Program Review (the state's version of the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office).
We should be clear that LePage is picking a fight with all of his constituents, not just heathen liberals.
I followed the vote live last night as the results came in and the margin was never close. The more liberal cities of Maine were among the last votes counted last night and, by that point, it was already over. Conservative voters in rural Maine chose Medicaid expansion from the very beginning and the margin of victory for expansion only increased as more cities reported their results.