Health care expansion fails in Senate after Republicans Katz and Woodsome flip

Health care expansion fails in Senate after Republicans Katz and Woodsome flip

After Republican Senator Tom Saviello’s bill to accept federal funding for MaineCare expansion passed by a single vote in the Senate on Tuesday and was subsequently passed in the House on an 85 to 64 vote, it was expected to go to Governor Paul LePage’s desk for approval or veto.

Instead, a vote to enact the legislation failed in the last few hours of the legislative session on Friday after Sen. Roger Katz of Augusta and Sen. David Woodsome of North Waterboro, who had initially supported the measure, changed their votes.

“With this vote, Republicans showed they are not even willing to let this bill stand or fall on its own merits,” said Sen. Linda Valentino of Saco in a statement after the vote. “Instead, they used a procedural move at the last minute to block the bill. The 70,000 Mainers who would receive health care coverage by this bill’s passage deserve to know where each senator stands.”

The proposal to accept federal funds is estimated to provide health insurance to more than 70,000 Mainers and would bring more more than $2 billion in federal funding to the state, creating an estimated 3,000 additional jobs.

Saviello’s conservative proposal, similar to bills approved by Republican legislatures and governors in other states, uses Medicaid to provide coverage to the poorest Mainers and private health insurance to expand access to affordable care for other low-income residents. It is also designed to provide additional resources to fight opioid addiction, leading to endorsements from law enforcement officers and drug treatment specialists.

Update: In a comment posted on April 20th, and which can be read in full below, Sen. Katz provided a justification for his vote: “First, I see no point in allowing our Governor to rail against Expansion in his veto message and then declare victory when his veto is sustained. Second, leaving the bill on the table means it is still technically alive, leaving a continuing opportunity to perhaps amend the bill to make it more palatable to more legislators.”

Photo via Andi Parkinson.

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