Look no further than the recent debate over Medicaid reform for evidence that two fundamentally different philosophies of government are competing for the allegiance of Maine voters.
In a recent op-ed column, Rep. Mark Eves, D-North Berwick, made the case for the Democrats’ progressive, redistributionist philosophy that has prevailed for the past four decades in Augusta. Rep. Eves is proud of the fact that more Maine families than ever before are dependent on government for health care. In fact, he celebrates the rapid expansion of Medicaid enrollment over the past 10 years as a positive development. He actually thinks Maine people are healthier and more productive because of this “wise investment” of public funds.
His proposed solution to the $220 million Medicaid budget shortfall is for Augusta to impose more regulations on health-care providers and patients. He claims that government-mandated cost-control measures would save tens of millions of dollars right away, and even more “over the years.”
Incredibly, Rep. Eves faults Gov. Paul LePage for the current budget shortfall. For readers who are by now rolling up their eyes in disbelief at the absurdity of this charge, just wait. It gets even better.
Rep. Eves insists that rolling back Medicaid enrollment from the current level of more than 350,000 Mainers to about 280,000 — where it was before the rapid expansion — is “immoral.” That’s right. The Republican reform plan to preserve the safety net and save Medicaid for the sick, the elderly and the disabled is “unconscionable” and “immoral.”
I’ll leave it to others to judge the morality of a previous administration that expanded coverage and then stopped paying health-care providers, leaving the new administration with hundreds of millions of dollars worth of unpaid hospital bills for Medicaid patients.
Clearly, there is no middle ground between what Rep. Eves and his progressive colleagues want and what needs to be done to keep Medicaid from going broke. There is no way to split the difference between these competing visions of Maine’s future. Maine voters will decide this November which vision they favor.
Will we be an entitlement state and a welfare magnet that encourages dependency on government, or will we throw off the shackles of the Nanny State so that our children and grandchildren can find economic opportunity right here in Maine?
I believe Maine people can build a robust economy and take care of the neediest among us if the bureaucracies in Augusta will just clean up their acts and get out of the way. We can’t afford to go back to business as usual. It will be up to Maine voters in November to decide what kind of future we will have.
Lawrence E. Lockman, Amherst