Voters in Maine overwhelmingly called for the expansion of Medicaid in their state Tuesday night. Now their Republican Governor says that he will ignore the will of the voters unless the state legislature comes up with a way to fully fund it.
Maine’s Republican Governor Paul LePage has been against Obamacare and the Medicaid expansion from the very beginning. LePage has already vetoed five different attempts of the state legislature to expand Medicaid. But, on Tuesday night, Maine voters went to the polls and voted overwhelmingly for the expansion.
On Wednesday, LePage said that the residents of his state had made a very expensive mistake with Tuesday’s vote. And he said that, regardless of the vote, he is very hesitant to implement the expansion.
The Governor says that a previous Medicaid expansion in Maine left large hospital debts and failed to reduce emergency room use. And, therefore, he is refusing to implement the expansion unless and until the state legislature can find a way to fully pay for it.
In a statement Wednesday LePage said,
“Credit agencies are predicting that this fiscally irresponsible Medicaid expansion will 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.”
But LePage is in for a big fight if he really tries to stop this now that the voters have spoken.
Sara Gideon, Maine’s Democratic House Speaker, said that the legislature plans to implement the expansion and that they will fight the Governor if he tries to stop it.
“The legislature will move swiftly to fund Medicaid expansion as required by law. The governor and DHHS commissioner will implement its requirements as well, as they are obligated to do,” she said. “Any attempts to illegally delay or subvert this law will not be tolerated and will be fought with every recourse at our disposal. Mainers demanded affordable access to healthcare yesterday, and that is exactly what we intend to deliver.”
LePage lashing out today and threatening to ignore the will of the voters is basically just an asshole move. He doesn’t have the veto power to stop this, and he can’t just ignore the law. But even beyond that, under Obamacare, the cost to states that choose to expand Medicaid is covered by the federal government. Up until this year, the federal government paid 100% of the cost. Now they pay nearly all of it, at 95%. Eventually that will go to 90%, still keeping most of the cost from the state.