Medicaid expansion fight unfolds in polls



The Maine People’s Alliance, a liberal advocacy group, claimed on Thursday that its latest robotic poll of 434 Mainers shows strong support in swing districts for expanding eligibility for the medical welfare program. According to the MPA’s robo poll, 69.9 percent of respondents said they favor Medicaid expansion, while 28.8 percent said they opposed.

The MPA robo poll sample included only respondents from swing districts, which it defines as districts with elections that were narrowly won in the 2012 State House of Representatives race.

Conservative critics quickly blasted the poll as an attempt by the MPA, which has lobbied extensively in favor of Medicaid expansion, to influence public opinion in their favor.

David Sorensen, communications director for the House Republicans, released a statement to the press pointing out several reasons why Republicans are skeptical of the poll results. According to Sorensen, the poll uses “Democratic buzzwords” and “persuasive language,” such as “new federal health care law,” rather than Obamacare or Affordable Care Act.

He also points out that MPA oversamples self-identified liberals. According to a recent Gallup poll, just 25 percent of Mainers identify as liberal, while 36.3 percent identify as conservative. The MPA poll sample was 37.4 percent self-identified liberals and only 29.9 percent conservative.

[RECOMMENDED: Misleading Medicaid Expansion Arguments…]

House Minority Leader Ken Fredette (R-Newport) dismissed the poll and said Republicans remain committed to educating voters on the ill consequences of expanding Medicaid.

“It’s our goal over the next several months to make the case to the people of Maine, regardless of electoral considerations, that expanding medical welfare under ObamaCare would be the biggest fiscal mistake in Maine’s history and would result in higher taxes and less funding for education and other services for years and even decades to come,” Fredette said in a prepared statement.

The MPA is not the first organization to poll Medicaid expansion, which has been a hot-button issue in the 126th Legislature.

In early December, the Democratic-leaning Pan Atlantic SMS Group released a poll showing only 50.6 percent support for Medicaid expansion. And in May of this year, Maine People Before Politics (MPBP), a group aligned with Republican Gov. Paul LePage, released a poll showing 67 percent opposition to expanding eligibility for the welfare program.

Whereas MPBP and Pan Atlantic used live telephone interviewers, the MPA poll used automated robo-pollers.

Many political observers say the variance in the polling is explained by the questions pollsters ask.

The Pan Atlantic SMS Group poll asked the following: “The most recent legislature passed a bill to expand MaineCare to 70,000 Maine families that do not have health care coverage. The Governor, in turn, vetoed the bill, saying that we couldn’t afford the expense. Whose position aligns more closely to your own?” (45.3 percent agreed with the governor, while 50.6 percent agreed with the Legislature.) 

The MPA asked the following: “Under the new federal health care law, nearly 70,000 people in Maine who are uninsured right now could get health care coverage through Medicaid, known in Maine as MaineCare, starting in 2014. The governor and state elected officials can choose to accept federal dollars that have been allocated to cover these people in Maine, or to turn the money down and not cover these people. The federal dollars cover 100% of the costs in the first three years, and 90% of the costs after that.” (68.9 percent strongly or somewhat support, while 28.8 percent strongly or somewhat oppose.)


  1. I question the integrity and honesty of anything the Marxist leaning Maine Peoples Alliance does. This rigged ‘poll’ is just another of their propaganda tools.

  2. There’s an inherent problem with robotic polling…what does it consider my vote when I mash all the numbers as soon as I hear a robotic voice asking me stupid questions?

  3. Having worked P-T for both Pan Atlantic and Strategic Marketing, I am very familiar with lead-in ‘setup’ statements which will usually secure the desired answer for the sponsor, i.e whoever paid for the survey/poll. The OMNIBUS poll often took up to 15 min. to administer and many questions had lead-in statements that prompted a certain answer sought by the sponsor.

    It was quite sophisticated and I was impressed with this ‘packaging’.

    What respondents probably don’t know is that Maine has one, perhaps the best, expanded Medicaid(MAINECARE) program in the U.S., well above the 133% expansion set in A.C.A:


    According to Maine Equal Justice Partners, children from age 1 to 18 with income up to 150 percent of the FPL are eligible for free MaineCare. The limit is 185 percent of the FPL for children under age 1. Children with 150 percent to 200 percent of the FPL are eligible for MaineCare with a low premium. The Katie Beckett option is available for higher-income families with a child who has a serious medical condition. This option counts only the child’s personal income and assets, not those of the family.


    Parents with children 18 and younger living at home qualify for full-benefit MaineCare with income levels at or below 200 percent of the FPL. MaineCare offers special extended coverage for families whose income increases from below 150 percent to above 200 percent of the FPL because of earnings, and transitional coverage for families whose income increased because of child support… Read more:

    Most states are struggling to reach the 133% of Federal Poverty Level(PFL), while in Maine some benefit categories reach all the way(this an emotional lead-in, btw), to 350% for MAINE Rx PLUS.

    Here’s a snippet from Michigan:

    If consumers are deemed eligible for the expanded Medicaid, they can’t access the tax credits now and instead will enroll in the nearly no-cost Medicaid program awaiting federal approval and tentatively planned to open April 1.

    But if consumers find out next year they’re ineligible, they may no longer be able to access those tax credits — significantly pushing up costs. Tax credits are available only to some consumers between 100% and 400% of the poverty line; those under 133% of the poverty level are eligible for Medicaid instead.

    It’s a catch-22 that could result in tax penalties for those without coverage. The same health reform law requires nearly everyone to carry health coverage or face tax penalties.

    “We can’t enroll people in a program that doesn’t exist, and the program doesn’t take effect until the bill (that allows the expansion) takes effect,” said Geralyn Lasher, senior deputy director of the external relations at the Michigan Department of Community Health.

    Michigan’s situation — though unique for a number of reasons — is another example of continuing confusion and delay on a national level.”

    Eligibility is complex….there are pages of eligible categories and criteria just for ‘citizenship; and generalizing questions and ‘dumbing them down’ only makes matters worse once people find out—if they ever do, all the conditions and criteria.

    THE MORE I READ, THE MORE I WOULD WANT FREE CLINICS FOR PEOPLE WITH PREDETERMINED ELIGIBILITY AND IDENTIFICATION. Take the money spent on processing regulations and put it into health care services.

  4. If these were land line calls made during the day, the people answering were most likely people who are welfare dependents. I wonder if they qualified the calls by asking if the respondent or household received welfare subsidies of any kind? Night calls usually got people who work; and kids use cell phones exclusively. We had to make two calls to poll > 30’s, one to the house and and hopefully they would give their son/daughter’s cell phone number so we could meet quota. I was always amazed at how many non-English speakers I got and remember a long phone call to a group of guys from Pakistan who were quite honest about why they were in Maine. There are CD’s of all registered voters with random number generators which produced the call sheets. Buy the CD, install a phone bank, hire a survey methodologist, and go into the survey biz.

  5. The unanswered question is whether the health of uninsured poor Mainers got better or worse and how when the eligibility was increased to 150% of FPL.

    If it didn’t, then that means the entire premise upon which ACA is based is false or flawed.


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