Proponents of Medicaid expansion find themselves in a rhetorical conundrum

Stethoscope wrapped around hundred dollar bills

Medicaid: Is it welfare or insurance?

Those who have actually read the legal definition of insurance are baffled at how Secretary of State Matt Dunlap thinks that Medicaid should be called “insurance” in the ballot question (Question 2)  appearing before Maine voters on November 7. As Secretary of State, Dunlap assembles the original language of each ballot initiative and allows public comment for a short period of time. As it stands today, the ballot language for Question 2 reads:

“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)?”

Insurance is, according to Cornell Law:

“[A]contract in which one party agrees to indemnify another against a predefined category of risks in exchange for a premium.”

Medicaid is a federal welfare program that covers the majority of costs for individuals by taxing other taxpayers to pay for those costs. Therefore, the “premium” is not being paid by a party for indemnification; instead taxpayers are paying the bill for other citizens (and non-citizens).

But, aside from the legal definition of insurance vs. welfare, recent news actually demonstrates that even the primary supporters of the Medicaid expansion bill, Maine Equal Justice Partners, oppose Medicaid expansion functioning like insurance.

In early June, the group behind the Medicaid expansion went so far as to say they would file suit if the LePage administration received approval for a 1115 waiver, which they have applied for and moved forward with plans to charge up to $40 for monthly premiums and $10 per visit for emergency room services.

How supporters of Question 2, with a straight face, can say that Medicaid is an “insurance” program, and then file suit to stop the collection of a monthly premium or co-pay (which is just a fraction of what the average Mainer pays for insurance) is beyond me.

What they really want is a welfare program that is fully funded with your tax dollars, and to be able to call it “insurance” on the ballot and in television ads.

Medicaid is welfare, and as such it should be preserved for our most vulnerable citizens instead of expanded to able-bodied adults and non-citizens.

Especially since we know supporters of this ballot question would never go along with actually making the Medicaid program function as an “insurance” program.


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