This November, Mainers will be asked a familiar question: should our State expand the Medicaid welfare program?
Not only has Medicaid Expansion been debated and defeated six times in recent years in the Maine Legislature, but Maine has already experienced the disastrous results of expansion.
In 2002, long before Obamacare was established, the Maine Legislature elected to expand Medicaid welfare to able-bodied, childless adults at or below 125 percent of the poverty line.
As enrollment in this welfare program exceeded all projections, the incredible costs cannibalized other important state programs, including education. Expansion was ineffective at achieving its goals and created hundreds of millions of dollars in hospital debts for services that Maine taxpayers simply couldn’t afford.
Medicaid Expansion also put our most vulnerable Mainers at risk, as our elderly and severely disabled languished on long wait lists for essential services while able-bodied adults moved to the front of the line to receive taxpayer-financed healthcare.
After a long nine years of this failed experiment, legislators decided to cut their losses, voting to rollback this unsustainable expansion in 2011 and again in 2012.
Around the same time, Washington DC politicians — who always believe the solution to every problem is spending more of our money — began pushing states to expand Medicaid welfare programs under Obamacare.
Many states have since taken the bait, but we in Maine have learned from past failures and have rejected calls to again saddle our taxpayers with this burden.
But here we are, barely one year after the last failed attempt, and the question is before us again.
But this time, the voters will decide with Question 2 on our November ballot whether Maine taxpayers should pay to expand Medicaid welfare services to able-bodied, childless adults and non-citizens.
Proponents of Medicaid expansion argue that the costs will be shared by both federal taxpayers and state taxpayers — forgetting that we here in Maine are also federal taxpayers.
Proponents also put a lot of faith in a dysfunctional federal government that pays for everything with credit cards. With $127 trillion in debt and unfunded liabilities (that’s a $1 million bill for every American taxpayer), Washington DC has proven its inability to manage our money.
When these bills come due, are we really so naive to believe the federal government will keep these promises? Or will Maine people be stuck holding the bag?
Even if the federal government does manage to keep its promises in the short-term, some estimates predict Medicaid Expansion will still cost state taxpayers $800 million over the next decade. And history has proven that the cost will be significant and unpredictable.
When Maine expanded in 2002, proponents estimated that only 11,000 new people would enroll. Within 14 months, enrollment hit 17,000. Many new enrollees were individuals who dropped their private insurance to switch over to Medicaid. The end result was only a nominal reduction in the uninsured rate, hardly worth the steep price tag.
Other states that have expanded under Obamacare have experienced similar results. Within a year and a half, California’s Medicaid expansion ran 222 percent over budget, putting them $14.7 billion in the red. Oregon’s ran 128 percent over budget, putting them $2 billion in the red. West Virginia — a state very similar to Maine — ran 46% over budget in the first year alone, costing them an additional $198 million dollars.
From now until November, we will hear arguments on both sides. But recent history shows that Medicaid expansion isn’t the answer we are looking for. Medicaid expansion does not work, and we cannot afford it.