Medicaid referendum will be Maine’s first chance to resist Trump at the ballot box

Medicaid referendum will be Maine’s first chance to resist Trump at the ballot box

Last week, the Maine Senate moved to indefinitely postpone legislative action on the citizen initiative to accept federal funding and expand health care coverage through Medicaid. With lawmakers failing to approve the measure, which was advanced through a successful grassroots signature drive, the health care initiative will now head to the ballot this November.

“As someone battling cancer who was denied access to health coverage because of Maine’s failure to accept federal funds and expand Medicaid, I know how personally devastating cutting off care can be,” said Brandy Staples of Phippsburg. “As a volunteer advocate working to pass Medicaid expansion, first through the legislature and now at the ballot, I’ve met many others with similar stories – needy, sick, disabled and sometimes fatally ill Mainers who are being denied care. They’re the reason I worked so hard to gather signatures to place this measure on the ballot and I’m glad we’ll have a chance to make things right this November.”

The initiative will authorized the State to provide health care coverage to Mainers with incomes below 138% of the federal poverty level (about $22,400 gross income for a family of two).

The vote is a clear challenge to the agenda of both Governor Paul LePage, who has vetoed bipartisan Medicaid expansion bills five times, and President Donald Trump, who is currently seeking to undo the Affordable Care Act and cut Medicaid.

“Hundreds of volunteers who collected signatures and thousands of Mainers who eagerly signed the petition did the work necessary to ensure that Mainers will have an opportunity to get this done for Maine in November,” said Robyn Merrill, Executive Director of Maine Equal Justice Partners. “No one should be blocked from accessing affordable health insurance, especially when so many need care or medicine.”

Federal funds were earmarked for Maine to cover most of the cost of providing health insurance to 70,000 Mainers by expanding Medicaid coverage.  By refusing to accept the funding, Maine has lost out on over $1 billion in spending in Maine and blocked the creation of more than 3,000 jobs since the inception of the ACA.

For Dr. Jane Pringle of Windham, it was her experience attempting to care for patients who worked in jobs that didn’t provide insurance, and who  were denied primary and preventative care, that prompted her to begin gathering signatures to place the measure on the ballot.

“It was often heartbreaking work, which is why I’m glad this citizen’s initiative to expand Medicaid coverage and close State’s coverage gap will move forward,” said Pringle.

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