Maine's governor is trying to block the state's Medicaid expansion the day after voters overwhelmingly supported it

  • Maine voters approved a measure to expand Medicaid in the state by 59% to 41%.
  • Republican Gov. Paul LePage, who has repeatedly blocked attempts to expand the program, said Wednesday he would not allow the measure to become law until the legislature determines that it would be paid for in full.
  • The expansion would allow around 80,000 low-income Mainers access to health insurance.

The day after voters in Maine overwhelmingly supported the expansion of the Medicaid program by a wide margin, the state’s governor said he would block its immediate implementation.

Gov. Paul LePage said in a statement Wednesday that he would not allow implementation until the state legislature makes certain changes to its budget.

“Credit agencies are predicting that this fiscally irresponsible Medicaid expansion will be ruinous to Maine’s budget,” LePage said. “Therefore, my administration will not implement Medicaid expansion until it has been fully funded by the Legislature at the levels DHHS 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.”

Overall, 59% of Maine voters agreed with a ballot measure proposing to expand Medicaid, by a margin of over 60,000 people.

The change would allow people making up to 138% of the federal poverty level to obtain health coverage under the program — currently in the state, Medicaid is available to people making up to the poverty line. According to estimates, this would allow 70,000 to 80,000 more lower-income Mainers to obtain insurance coverage.

LePage has a history of blocking Medicaid expansion in the state, vetoing bills to expand the program four different times.

During the run up to the vote, LePage argued that the expansion would be a significant financial burden on the state, saying that it could cost upward of $US100 million a year. Maine’s Office of Fiscal and Program Review, however, found that the federal government would shoulder $US525 million in costs for the program a year and the state would pay just over $US55 million a year.

It is unclear if LePage actually has the ability to block the program, since all adopted ballot measures become law in Maine 45 days after passage. The expansion would take effect in August 2018.

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