After accepting feedback from Maine citizens throughout a 30-day public comment period, Democratic Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap made minuscule changes to the ballot language of Question 2, which would expand Medicaid eligibility under the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, in Maine.
The Maine Heritage Policy Center (MHPC) sent a detailed letter to Dunlap on Aug. 22 highlighting the organization’s suggested changes to the ballot language, proposed with the intent of giving Maine people a transparent view of what the measure entails. MHPC specifically requested that Dunlap make an honest effort to articulately spell out exactly what service is being offered, what population it is being offered to, and how the service is being provided under this initiative.
Dunlap floundered extravagantly.
The initial wording of Question 2 was, “Do you want Maine to provide health insurance through Medicaid for qualified adults under age 65 with incomes at or below 138% of the federal poverty line (which is now about $16,000 for a single person and $22,000 for a family of two)?”
The major change proposed by MHPC was the elimination of the word “qualified.” This alteration was suggested because expanding Medicaid at the ballot box in November will make able-bodied, childless adults between the ages of 21 and 64 eligible for government subsidized health coverage. It will also provide coverage to noncitizens ages 21 and under.
The usage of the term “qualified” in the ballot language is improper because the qualifying population (able-bodied adults ages 21-64 and noncitizens 21 and under) has not yet had benefits extended to them, meaning they are not qualified to receive coverage. These populations would qualify for these benefits if coverage was extended to them. “Qualified” is a deceptive term that will lead voters in November to believe that those who will receive government subsidized coverage under Question 2 are already entitled to these benefits. They are not.
The final ballot language, released by the Secretary of State’s office on Sept. 7, reads, “Do you want Maine to expand Medicaid to provide healthcare coverage for qualified adults under age 65 with incomes at or below 138% of the federal poverty level, which in 2017 means $16,643 for a single person and $22,412 for a family of two?”
The only change that has occurred (other than marginal adjustments to accurately portray the exact federal poverty level) is the concession that Medicaid is not insurance. Instead of referring to the service as “health insurance through Medicaid” as it did in the original ballot language, Dunlap altered the language to read “healthcare coverage.”
While conservatives will give kudos to Dunlap for conceding that Medicaid is not health insurance, they are missing the bigger picture. What voters need to know at the ballot box is that, as MHPC included in its letter, this measure offers government subsidized health coverage to able-bodied, childless adults.
Without the inclusion of this specific language, the Maine people will not know that they are going to be taxed to provide this coverage to working-age adults who have the physical capability to procure their own health insurance. These two important facts would give Maine voters a much clearer picture of what they are voting on.
Continuing to use the term “qualified” in the ballot language, without definitions of how the service is funded and who exactly it is being offered to, is an intentional move to give supporters of Question 2 the upper hand in November.