Maine can learn from Ohio’s Medicaid expansion mistake


I had the privilege of spending some time in your state earlier this year and I truly enjoyed spending time with Mainers and learning more about your great state.  It’s a good time to be a citizen of Maine. You still have the freedom of choice—the choice between protecting your most vulnerable neighbors or turning your back on them. The choice between allowing your able-bodied neighbors to fall into the trap of dependency or choosing prosperity. The choice between expanding ObamaCare—or as you call it in Maine, MaineCare—or not.

The ability to choose is powerful, and I speak from experience when I tell you that it shouldn’t be a difficult decision: Maine cannot afford to expand MaineCare to able-bodied adults.

But that’s precisely what Question 2 on your ballot seeks to do. Currently, there are 250,000 Mainers on Medicaid in your beautiful state—children in poverty, the disabled, pregnant women, the elderly. Medicaid was designed to protect these people, and currently in Maine, it’s doing just that.

But the expansion of Medicaid would not protect these individuals. Instead, it would expand Medicaid eligibility to able-bodied, childless adults—people that the program was never intended for. Not only does this expansion jeopardize funding for critical priorities and the truly needy, but it creates an entirely new class of able-bodied adults who are dependent on the government.

States that have expanded ObamaCare have enrolled more than twice as many adults as expected—and are now dealing with the repercussions. I’m from one of those states, Ohio. At the time of the expansion, the Kasich administration in my home state promised that the program would not exceed 447,000 able-bodied adults and I was told that I was being overly pessimistic when I said that the enrollment would be 650,000.  Well, I was wrong enrollment surpassed 725,000 by June of this year—with no signs of slowing. By the end of this year, the program is estimated to be $8 billion over budget. Things are so bad our legislature voted to freeze the expansion in its tracks to try and restore some sanity.

And unfortunately, Ohio isn’t an outlier—every state that has expanded ObamaCare has exceeded expected enrollment and has shattered cost projections as a result. In New York, enrollment has exceeded expectations by a staggering 267 percent, while another New England state, Rhode Island, saw enrollment surpass expectations by 49 percent.

And as enrollment of able-bodied adults in our state continues to rise, so does the resulting fiscal crisis, eating away at state funds necessary for other critical purposes. In Ohio, Gov. Kasich has proposed slashing payments to pediatric hospitals and changing eligibility levels for pregnant women in order to compensate for the unsustainable costs of ObamaCare expansion of Medicaid.

Why would Maine want to make this same mistake again? When your state originally expanded Medicaid in 2001, the rest of the country watched as Maine faced massive shortfalls year after year. Maine wasn’t known for its good budgeting back then. Gov. LePage wisely undid the expansion in order to reverse the impact of ObamaCare and protect resources for other critical priorities. We even saw the reports of Maine adding money to help the disabled receive services. In Ohio, we only wish we had our budget in order enough to give more funding for our neediest residents like Maine has been able to do.

Around the country in the last decade, Medicaid has grown by 71 percent, making it the single most expensive line item in states’ budgets. According to state officials, if Maine were to expand ObamaCare, it would cost somewhere near $100 million—each budget year. To expand ObamaCare would be a grave mistake, one that would siphon resources away from education, infrastructure, public safety, and the truly needy.

But it doesn’t have to be the case in Maine. You can learn from Ohio, and your own history, and make the best choice for Maine’s future.

Maine has the opportunity to say “no” to ObamaCare’s expansion of Medicaid.. To protect its most vulnerable citizens. To ensure that well-earned taxpayer dollars are saved for education, public safety and infrastructure—not spent on trapping able-bodied adults in dependency through ObamaCare.



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