AUGUSTA — Gov. Paul LePage on Wednesday railed against an expansion of Medicaid eligibility in Maine, calling it a disturbing national trend of damaging federal mandates.
LePage also linked what he called censorship he has experienced in the past two weeks to a pattern of the same at the national level, suggesting that citizens go home and arm themselves if it continues.
“Expanding Medicaid? That’s not being run locally, that’s being run from Washington,” said LePage to reporters Wednesday at the State House, according to a report of the exchange by WCSH. “Are you that naive that you don’t realize who is pulling the strings? This is being run by our congressional delegation. … If I thought it was local, it would be no problem.”
The issue of expanding Medicaid under the federal Affordable Care Act has been simmering in state government for months. Under the law, the federal government will pay 100 percent of the cost of the Medicaid expansion, which would provide health insurance for some 70,000 Mainers, for the first three years. That funding level gradually would recede to 90 percent by 2020.
Legislative Democrats tried to force the expansion this month by linking it to a plan championed by LePage to make a final payment to Maine’s hospitals on hundreds of millions of dollars in past Medicaid debt. LePage vetoed that package last week. The veto was upheld Wednesday in the Senate, and both the governor and Democrats are preparing stand-alone bills to advance the hospital debt payment and Medicaid expansion, respectively.
“This is a national problem and it’s a direction the country is going in that we should be very concerned about,” said LePage.
LePage spokeswoman Adrienne Bennett said later Wednesday that the governor is more concerned about more than 3,000 people who are on waiting lists for social services in Maine.
“Everyone agrees that the hospital debt needs to be paid for,” said Bennett. “The governor’s issue has always been the long-term stability and affordability of a program and ensuring the most needy are covered.”
The governor also continued his criticism of Democrats for what he called “censorship” stemming from a May 19 Appropriations Committee meeting at which LePage arrived unannounced and was not allowed to speak by the committee chairwoman, Sen. Dawn Hill, D-York.
LePage’s claims of censorship continued last week when he was asked to remove a television he had placed outside his office, despite the fact Democrats invited him to take the issue to the Legislative Council, which has authority over alterations to the State House. In protest, LePage worked from the Blaine House late last week and early this week before returning to his office Wednesday.
Democrats have responded by saying that they only want LePage held to the same rules as everyone else.
LePage linked those issues to what he portrayed as a similar pattern of censorship at the national level, according to a report by the Portland Press Herald.
“The minute we start stifling our speech, we might as well go home, roll up our sleeves and get our guns out,” said LePage.
Bennett declined to elaborate on what LePage meant by that statement.