Medicaid Expansion

LePage and House Republicans spare Mainers big tax hike

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Earlier this week, Maine House Republicans sustained Governor LePage’s veto of a bill to implement Medicaid expansion, preventing more than $31 million from being raided from the unappropriated surplus of the budget.

Vetoing efforts to massively expand the Medicaid program to able-bodied, childless adults has become a perennial occurrence for LePage, who has consistently emphasized the importance of stabilizing the DHHS budget by prioritizing care for the elderly, disabled, and children.

Since Medicaid expansion was approved by voters last year, the legislature has failed to offer a credible mechanism to finance this unprecedented expansion of the welfare state. Using budget surplus funds to support this initiative is an irresponsible attempt to postpone the tax increases that will ultimately be necessary to maintain fiscal solvency in the long-run. These gimmicks merely underline the lack of genuine concern progressive politicians have for Maine taxpayers who will eventually have to shoulder this burden.

Advocates of Medicaid expansion seem to have forgotten the disastrous consequences of Maine’s previous experiment with giving free health care to able-bodied adults.

In 2002, then-Governor Angus King expanded Medicaid eligibility to childless adults earning up to 125 percent of the federal poverty line. As a result, spending and enrollment doubled from 2000 to 2011 and spending grew by more than $1 billion annually, driving up Maine’s tax burden and drawing resources from other state priorities.

Oh yeah, and $750 million in hospital debt was left unpaid.

After more than seven years of responsible stewardship by the LePage administration, bills are paid on time and Maine’s Medicaid program is no longer staring at a sea of red ink.

LePage’s staunch opposition to Medicaid expansion has spared Maine taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars in needless (and often counterproductive) government expenditures. As the Maine Heritage Policy Center reported last year, the promises of expansion supporters have consistently been debunked.

No, Medicaid expansion doesn’t cause a surge of economic growth.

No, Medicaid expansion doesn’t significantly affect the uninsured rate.

No, Medicaid expansion doesn’t reduce uncompensated hospital care.

No, Medicaid expansion doesn’t save lives.

No, the cost estimates offered by expansion proponents aren’t realistic.

LePage understands the importance of not repeating the failure of the past. Lawmakers should continue to follow his example and stand staunchly against implementing this harmful policy. 

About Liam Sigaud

Liam Sigaud is a former policy analyst at The Maine Heritage Policy Center. A native of Rockland, Maine, he holds a B.A. in Biology from the University of Maine at Augusta and has studied policy analysis and economics at the Muskie School of Public Service at the University of Southern Maine. He can be reached by email at liam.sigaud@maine.edu.

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