AUGUSTA – Expanding Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act – also known as Obamacare – will cost Maine taxpayers $40 million dollars over the first biennium, according to a preliminary report from the Office of Fiscal and Program Review.
The final price tag for L.D. 1066, a bill from Rep. Linda F. Sanborn (D-Gorham) that would expand Maine’s Medicaid program (MaineCare), is not yet available online, but from the preliminary numbers it is apparent that expansion will hit Maine taxpayers hard.
That expanding Medicaid, an anti-poverty program in conception, will cost Mainers $40 million over the first two years may come as a surprise to those who have listened to expansion’s proponents tout the benefits of “free” federal money. The high cost also throws a wrench into State Democrats’ plan to link their support of Republican Gov. Paul R. LePage’s hospital repayment bill to Medicaid expansion.
The preliminary fiscal note runs contrary to statements from Democratic leaders indicating Medicaid expansion will cost Mainers nothing.
Senate President Justin L. Alfond (D-Cumberland), testifying in favor of L.D. 1066, stated repeatedly that Medicaid expansion would not cost Mainers a single dollar: “Right now, we have a unique opportunity to provide health insurance – at no cost – to more than 50,000 of our friends and neighbors… It’s a good deal because, at no cost to our state, more Mainers will have health insurance… If we don’t accept federal dollars for this year, we will have lost an amazing opportunity to expand access to healthcare for more than 50,000 Mainers at no cost to the state for an entire year.” (Emphasis added)
While the final fiscal note for L.D. 1066 remains to be seen, the preliminary report suggests that expanding Medicaid will impose costs on Maine taxpayers.