A ballot initiative expanding Maine’s Medicaid system under the federal Affordable Care Act was approved by the overwhelming majority of the state’s voters. But instead of following their wishes, Gov. Paul LePage is refusing to act until the state legislature can come up with a way to pay for it.
LePage said he has chosen to wait because credit agencies say the plan is irresponsible. He also stated that expanding Medicaid in the state would be “ruinous to Maine’s budget.”
“Therefore, my administration will not implement Medicaid expansion until it has been fully funded by the Legislature at the levels [the Department of Health and Human Services] has calculated, and I will not support increasing taxes on Maine families, raiding the rainy day fund or reducing services to our elderly or disabled,” he said.
But supporters of the Medicaid expansion said the governor is going against the state’s constitution by attempting to ignore the residents’ will.
“More than 70,000 Mainers have already waited too long for health care,” expansion supporter David Farmer told reporters. “They shouldn’t have to wait any longer. The governor cannot ignore the law or the Constitution of Maine. Simply put, the governor does not have veto power of citizen’s initiatives and he cannot ignore the law.”
Still, even if the funding was the only hurdle to the expansion of the program in the state, supporters added, it wouldn’t be an issue since Maine would only fund about $54 million a year, and matching federal funds under ACA would pay $525 million annually.
But to LePage, this detail doesn’t matter as he continues to claim the legislature must act before allowing the expansion to take effect.
While it’s important that the state government take lessons from the past seriously as a Medicaid expansion once caused the state to experience budgetary issues, supporters of expansion want the governor to work for them, putting the policies they want into motion instead of acting like an emperor with all-encompassing power over their lives.
What’s left for us to learn is if people in Maine will attempt to force the governor’s hand as Senate Minority Leader Troy Jackson has vowed to, or if they will let him have his way, allowing the governor to delay the expansion of Medicaid in the state.