Voters Could Set Precedent for Medicaid Expansion

If Maine referendum passes, Gov. Paul LePage can't block Medicaid expansion under ACA
By Michael Harthorne,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 28, 2017 12:26 PM CDT
Voters Could Set Precedent for Medicaid Expansion
The State House is surrounded by fall foliage Monday, Oct. 23, 2017, in Augusta, Maine.   (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)

On Nov. 7, Maine will take an unprecedented step for a state when it allows residents to vote on expanding Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, the New York Times reports. Maine is one of 19 states where Republicans have blocked Medicaid expansion available under the ACA. The Maine legislature has voted repeatedly to expand Medicaid only to have Gov. Paul LePage veto expansion five times. However, if expansion is approved by voters through a referendum next month, LePage would be unable to veto it. If the referendum passes, approximately 80,000 more Maine residents making up to 138% of the poverty level will be eligible for Medicaid.

In addition to decreasing the number of uninsured Maine residents, supporters of the referendum say it will add jobs and help rural hospitals stay open. LePage, while attacking Maine hospitals for their support of the referendum on Friday, said it would take "resources away from our most vulnerable Mainers" to "give free taxpayer-funded healthcare to adults who should be working and contributing," the Press Herald reports. Under the ACA, at least 90% of Medicaid expansion costs would be covered by the federal government. The other 18 states where Medicaid expansion has been blocked are carefully watching what happens in Maine. It's estimated more than 2.5 million Americans would gain access to health care if all 19 holdout states allowed Medicaid expansion. (Read more Maine stories.)

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