The measure also would have established a managed care system for all 320,000 beneficiaries, an effort to control costs in the $2.5 billion program, which is Maine's version of the Medicaid health insurance program. Under the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, the federal government offered to reimburse states for 100 percent of the cost of expansion for at least three years, then gradually reduce reimbursements rates to about 90 percent. But in his veto message to the Legislature, LePage wrote that Maine could neither afford expansion nor trust the federal government to deliver on its promises.
Maine's Democratic state House Speaker, Mark Eves, noted the circumstances this week surrounding Medicaid expansion. "We have a bipartisan plan for life-saving health care for tens of thousands of Mainers," he said. "It creates jobs, it save lives, it saves money."
All of this happens to be true. Every state north of Virginia has either embraced Medicaid expansion or is working towards doing so -- except Maine, where Gov. Paul LePage (R) refuses to cooperate. More than 60,000 low-income Mainers would benefit from the policy, on top of the economic and fiscal benefits, but the Republican governor nevertheless vetoed Medicaid expansion yesterday.
The rejection didn't come as a surprise, and Democratic state lawmakers will try to override LePage's veto. By all accounts, however, they face an uphill climb -- some GOP state lawmakers are on board with the policy, but probably not enough to generate a two-thirds majority.
But what was somewhat surprising was just how awful LePage's defense was. The governor, struggling in his re-election bid this year, had plenty of time to come up with a credible rationale for blocking Medicaid expansion, but he didn't come up with much.
"It is shortsighted to think federal funds will always be available, especially after watching the federal deficit climb and witnessing continual delays and changes from Washington," he said in a statement.
I realize that Paul LePage sometimes struggles with policy details, but there are some rudimentary facts he should probably understand before telling 60,000 people they can't have health insurance.
For example, if LePage is "watching the federal deficit climb," he's not watching closely enough. The federal deficit isn't climbing; it's shrinking. In fact, in recent years, we've seen the fastest deficit reduction than at any point since World War II. Does LePage not know that? Maybe he should have looked it up before issuing his statement?
What's more, LePage is convinced federal funds may not "always be available" to finance Medicaid expansion. In other words, he'll refuse the funds now because maybe, someday, far off in the future, Washington won't offer the funds they're promising to provide.
Sorry, 60,000 struggling Mainers. You can't have access to affordable medical care because your governor is paranoid about a fiscal situation that may or may not materialize at some point.
These are the best arguments the governor's office could come up with after having months to prepare?