AUGUSTA – Expanding eligibility for Maine’s medical welfare program, known as Medicaid or MaineCare, under the federal Affordable Care Act is projected to cost Maine taxpayers more than $800 million over the next ten years.
The projected cost figure, which exceeds previous estimates, is just one part of a report released Friday by the administration of Gov. Paul R. LePage.
According to Gary Alexander, head of the Alexander Group and chief author of the report, 24.7 percent of Maine’s population received medical welfare in 2012 and 2013, but that number is projected to grow to 29 percent of the population by 2023 — even without a controversial MaineCare expansion.
Although Democratic leaders have previously pegged the number of new enrollees to be covered by expansion at nearly 70,000, Alexander’s analysis shows new enrollments will be much greater, as individuals leave private insurance and employer-provided plans in favor of medical welfare.
“The Alexander Group believes MaineCare enrollment will soar over the next three years,” said Mayhew, who added that enrollment in the first two years is likely to double previous estimates, at 150,000.
Alexander previously served as the Secretary of Public Welfare in Pennsylvania from 2011 to 2013 and as Secretary of Health and Human Resources in Rhode Island. Maine Democrats dismissed his report almost as quickly as they learned of it, frequently calling him a “tea party” consultant, though his connections to tea party groups remain unclear.
Democrats in the Legislature, and liberal news reporters, have said repeatedly that the report coast nearly $1 million to produce. But a review of the Alexander Group’s contract shows this report – one of five – cost the state just $54,000.
If Maine does expand MaineCare, Alexander estimates that 37.9 percent of the state’s population will receive medical welfare in just ten years.
Both Mayhew and Alexander said Maine should focus not on expanding medical welfare, but on ensuring that the program helps Maine’s most vulnerable population, such as the estimated 3,900 intellectual and developmentally challenged individuals currently on wait-lists.
Alexander said both providing resources to take care of the waitlist and expanding the program to cover young, able-bodied adults is not possible.
Rep. Drew Gattine (D-Westbrook), who sits on the Legislature’s Health and Human Services Committee, attended the unveiling of the report and quickly dismissed the findings.
“It wasn’t worth the drive up here,” he said. He added that he “could have written the report himself,” though he later acknowledged not having read it. When asked about the wait list, Gattine said he thought the state should “fund it.”
Rep. Deb Sanderson (R-Chelsea), also a member of the HHS Committee, said the report suggests expanding Medicaid would be much more costly for taxpayers than Democrats have previously let on.
“Numbers aren’t partisan,” she said. “Numbers are numbers.”
View the full report here.