Despite vetoing it five times, Gov. LePage has no idea how health care expansion works

Despite vetoing it five times, Gov. LePage has no idea how health care expansion works

Either Governor Paul LePage has been operating under some false assumptions about the costs and benefits of accepting federal funding to expand health care in Maine as he has vetoed expansion five times over the past four years (twice more it didn’t even make it to his desk because of his opposition), or he is choosing to lie about the issue repeatedly to confuse the public.

That’s what became clear in an interview on Maine Public Radio’s Maine Calling program yesterday, in which LePage claimed that Maine wouldn’t have been eligible for 100% reimbursement of MaineCare costs for covering tens of thousands of Mainers without insurance for the first three years and then 90% thereafter through federally-funded Medicaid expansion. In fact, the state would qualify for the full reimbursement.

LePage also denied that a coverage gap existed at all, even after a caller informed him that she, herself, was one of the estimated 60,000 Mainers who falls into that gap.

“I’m actually one of the people affected by the health care issue in Maine, so LePage is wrong in saying that people aren’t affected or that wouldn’t get the insurance. I would get the insurance if we accepted that money federally,” explained the caller, identified as Laura from Pownal.

“But why don’t you now? Why don’t you qualify now?” asked LePage.

“I make too little money to be on Obamacare. It’s expected that if you go to Obamacare that you’re goign to make a certain amount of money so you can afford the premiums. But if you make $11,500 a year…” said Laura

“Then you qualify for medicaid,” interrupted LePage.

The conversation continued with the caller explaining that she has applied several times and has helped others attempt to apply in her role as a social worker, but that she falls into the coverage gap that would be solved by accepting federal funding.

“That’s not true,” LePage continued to repeat.

Later that day, the LePage administration released a statement admitting that the governor was wrong about some of his claims.

Health care expansion would cover an additional 70,000 Mainers making low wages and is projected to bring $320 million a year into the state economy, creating around 4,000 new jobs. Without expansion, experts estimate that 157 Mainers will continue to die each year from a lack of access to care.

As Ben Chin noted in a recent column, one option to pursue expansion in the face of LePage’s obstruction may be a citizen-initiated referendum.

Photo via Andi Parkinson.

Edited to clarify the outcomes of the seven expansion bills.

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