In the Maine Democratic Party's fifth and final installment of The Clone Wars, we highlight Governor LePage's ideological obstruction of the voter-approved Medicaid expansion law, despite its great promise for the health of our people and our economy, and the Republicans' commitment to repealing it if elected.
Last year, Maine voters overwhelmingly approved extending health insurance to nearly 80,000 people across the state by expanding Medicaid.
Their stamp of approval at the ballot box – the first state in the nation to do so via ballot initiative – came after years of Governor LePage’s ideological obstruction in Augusta, in which he vetoed five separate pieces of bipartisan legislation that would have expanded Medicaid.
And he did all of this despite the clear and overwhelming evidence that Medicaid expansion would significantly benefit the state, not only in terms of peoples’ health but in terms of our economy as well.
Bangor Daily News: “By extending insurance to 80,000 more Mainers, Medicaid expansion will make medical care more accessible and affordable. It will also put Maine hospitals on more secure financial footing by reducing their uncompensated care and expanding their patient base. In many rural communities, hospitals are the largest employers. It will also help the state’s economy as billions of federal dollars flow into the state, creating 6,000 new jobs […]”
The approval of the ballot initiative was widely seen as a direct rebuke of LePage and the Republicans who fought Medicaid expansion at every turn:
Associated Press: “Residents in this rural state grappling with a heroin epidemic and an aging population voted Tuesday to deliver a rebuke to Republican Gov. Paul LePage and join 31 other states that have expanded Medicaid under former President Barack Obama’s health care law.”
But rather than abandon his senseless obstruction in the face of the will of the people – also now known more succinctly as the law – LePage and Republicans simply doubled-down on their obstruction, taking it to new and unprecedented heights.
Maine Public: “Republican Gov. Paul LePage is threatening to block implementation of Maine’s landmark Medicaid expansion law, which voters overwhelming approved Tuesday.”
So in response, the people of Maine took LePage to court, and they won. In a decision delivered earlier this week, a Maine judge told the LePage Administration that it must submit an implementation plan to the federal government by next Monday. But just last night, his Administration said that they plan to appeal the decision.
But as LePage continues to drag his feet, we also continue to draw closer to the end of his term, bringing into sharper focus how much the success of Medicaid expansion in Maine may depend on our next governor.
Each of the Democratic candidates have been clear: they support Medicaid expansion and will work to implement it. Each of the Republicans have been equally clear: they oppose Medicaid expansion and will continue to toe the LePage line:
Shawn Moody: “I did not support the Medicaid expansion, and…I would fight to repeal it.”
Garrett Mason: “I would appeal the decision to the higher court. I would ask for an injunction to stop the court order and from there I would work every day to make sure I elect Republicans in the Legislature so that we can repeal the Medicaid expansion law.”
Mary Mayhew: “The judge was wrong. It [Medicaid expansion] needs to be repealed immediately. That court order needs to be challenged right to the Supreme Court.”
Ken Fredette “said issues his caucus won't bend on include slowing down the minimum wage increase and not appropriating any money for Medicaid expansion. He balked at calling them ultimatums, but they are clearly ultimatums.”
The people of Maine have spoken and a court has backed them up – Medicaid expansion is the law of the land in Maine, and, as health care advocates have repeatedly shown, it will benefit the state in myriad ways.
But rather than accept the will of the people and honor the law, the Republican gubernatorial candidates put LePage’s politics and their electoral interests ahead of Maine people by working to block the implementation of Medicaid and even threatening to repeal it. It’s time that Maine move forward with Medicaid expansion by leaving the Republican gubernatorial candidates behind.