MaineCare expansion debate heating up
AUGUSTA (WGME) -- This week, two republican state senators broke ranks and rolled out a bill to expand the state's Medicaid program. This, even though Governor Paul LePage, his administration, and republicans, as a whole, are adamantly against expanding healthcare to, as they put it, "able-bodied" Mainers. Democrats call them the working poor, and believe they deserve healthcare just like anyone else.
Ashley Rideout, from South China, Maine, has MaineCare coverage. She says it is the only public assistance she gets, and is grateful for it. Rideout says "Without that, I don't even know where I'd be. I wouldn't have food on my table and I wouldn't have a way to bring my daughter to the doctors." Rideout supports expanding MaineCare to more of Maine's working poor so they, too, can see a doctor when they're sick.
Republican state senators Tom Saviello and Roger Katz are sponsoring a bill for the state to accept about $1 million a day in new federal funding to cover the cost of expanding Medicaid in Maine. They're bill also imposes a new managed care system that they say will save the state money. Sen. Saviello says "We're going to have a different way that we're going to manage. We're going to use managed care."
Health and Human Services Commissioner Mary Mayhew says she's all for a discussion about managed care, but not when it's tied up with medicaid expansion which she says will end up costing the state millions of dollars. Mayhew says "Democrats have said that adding 100,000 people to Medicaid is somehow free. But we all know better. Again, we've done expansions in Maine. We know the realities of it."
Mayhew, and commissioners on the governor's cabinet who oversee Maine's natural resources, are voicing concerns over expanding Medicaid. They say MaineCare costs already take up a quarter of the state budget. Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Comm. Chandler Woodcock says "As medicaid consumes more funding in our state, our natural resources and the departments that oversee them take the hits."
And Commissioner Walter Whitcomb, with the Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry, says MaineCare costs have "sucked the life out of the Natural Resource's ability, our ability, to work with our natural resource partners." Democratic leaders say republicans doing nothing more than spreading fear. Speaker of the House, Rep. Mark Eves, says there is nothing to be afraid of with Medicaid expansion.
Speaker Eves says "In fact, the irony is that the state will save money through expanding healthcare, through accepting these federal dollars." But DHHS Commissioner Mary Mayhew says "The miraculous savings being advertised are not real." Gov. LePage is certain to veto any bill that includes Medicaid expansion. But it may only take one more republican vote in the Senate, and seven in the House, to override that veto.