Defiant LePage says he won't implement voter-approved Medicaid expansion

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Gov. Paul LePage speaks at aa Auburn town hall in 2015, LePage said he would not act to implement Medicaid expansion until it was fully funded by the Legislature. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)

AUGUSTA – Gov. Paul LePage issued a defiant statement Wednesday following overwhelming approval by voters of a ballot initiative to expand the state’s Medicaid system under the federal Affordable Care Act.

LePage, who campaigned against the expansion and has five times successfully vetoed legislation that would have expanded Maine’s low-income health care system under the federal law, said he would not act to implement the expansion until it was fully funded by the Legislature. He did not expand on what that meant.

“The last time Maine experimented with Medicaid expansion in 2002 under then-governor Angus King, it created a $750 million debt to hospitals, resulted in massive budget shortfalls every year, did not reduce emergency room use, did not reduce the number of uninsured Mainers and took resources away from our most vulnerable residents—the elderly and the intellectually and physically disabled,” LePage said in a prepared statement issued by his office.
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In 2013 LePage signed into law a bill that used revenue from the state’s wholesale liquor business to finance a $183.5 million payment to the state’s 39 hospitals for costs they incurred under the Medicaid system but had not been paid for by the state. That payment drew down an additional $307 million in federal matching funds.

Nearly 60 percent of those voting Tuesday, however approved an expansion that would extend Medicaid benefits to an estimated 70,000 people making up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level. The federal government would pay 90 percent of the cost of expansion.

“Credit agencies are predicting that this fiscally irresponsible Medicaid expansion will be ruinous to Maine’s budget,” LePage said. “Therefore, my administration will not implement Medicaid expansion until it has been fully funded by the Legislature at the levels DHHS has calculated, and I will not support increasing taxes on Maine families, raiding the rainy day fund or reducing services to our elderly or disabled.”

LePage’s office said a statement from at least one credit agency would be released later Wednesday.

David Farmer, a spokesman for the campaign that supported the ballot question law, said LePage couldn’t “unilaterally” block the will of the voters.

“More than 70,000 Mainers have already waited too long for health care,” Farmer said. “They shouldn’t have to wait any longer. The governor cannot ignore the law or the Constitution of Maine. Simply put, the governor does not have veto power of citizen’s initiatives and he cannot ignore the law.”

LePage’s statement also triggered a wave of reaction from State House leaders on both sides of the aisle.

House Minority Leader Ken Fredette, R-Newport, acknowledged in a radio interview on the Bangor-based WVOM that approval of the ballot question by voters made it the “law of the land” but also said his caucus wouldn’t support any tax increases or a raid on the state’s savings account, known as the budget stabilization fund.

“I acknowledge the passing of the referendum dealing with the expansion of Medicaid,” Fredette said in a prepared statement issued following the radio interview. “However, I do not believe House Republicans will support any tax increase or the raiding of the rainy day fund to pay for an ever-expanding state government due to the out of control referendum process.”

But Senate Minority Leader Troy Jackson, D-Allagash, said Democrats would fight for the expansion and resist any attempts by LePage and Fredette to eschew the voters’ will.

“When Gov. LePage and his allies tried to defeat Medicaid expansion at the ballot box, Mainers turned out in the ballot box to reject his lies. And we won,” Jackson said. “And when, inevitably, Gov. LePage and Rep. Fredette conspire this year to overturn the voters’ will and take health care away from 80,000 Mainers, we will rise up to resist them. And we will win.” 

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  • FrankE

    Why did I get up yesterday morning, take a shower and head to the voting booth. I’m totally disabled and can’t stand or walk for any measurable period of time. I suffer continuous chronic nerve pain which hits whether I’m standing or not. Why is it that I made the effort to vote for what I believe in along with nearly sixty percent of my fellow voters. Furthermore what right does this bag of wind disguised as a sitting Governor have to ignore my legally tended vote. What’s the point in voting if the results are only considered acceptable if the person in the drivers seat agrees with the results. I thought this was a democracy where we vote our feelings. At what point in history was the final choice given to one of the most ignorant individuals in the State. People will die if LePage has his way, and from what I see as far as colleges willing to fight his desisions, many people will die. We need some backbone in office these days. How anyone could be intimidated by the likes of LePage is beyond me.
    Keep in mind, for a majority of his tenure he has been affectionately referred to as the worst Governor in the history of the state. This by fellow Governors across the country. LePages has made this state a laughing stock, and unless we want to be known as the most dangerous state to be poor in, we need to reign in his bent philosophies while we still have a breath in our lungs…………..

    • Big Love

      go back to bed. you must be exhausted bitching about not being able to raise working peoples taxes to pay for somebody elses benefit, again.

      • FrankE

        My but aren’t you a bright bit of sunshine this morning. I read your post several times and still can’t quite figure out exactly what your trying to say. My stance is pretty rock solid. One way or another, tax payer money will be used to pay for Universal Healthcare at some point in the future. What gets me is you people complaining about rising taxes. I pay taxes I’ll bet if you had to choose what I am forced to pay for my medical treatment even with Medicare, you would beg for higher taxes. It doesn’t have to be that way. Most every other Industrialized Nation in the world regardless of size uses Universal health insurance. With a roughly 50% reduction of what the US pays annually, I would say they are on to something. This country has the worst, most expensive most corrupt system in the world. The corruption explains the huge costs to patients. If you would take the time to notice, you may see that Republican Law makers are the biggest anti Obama Care zealots in the country. There’s a very good reason for that. They stand to earn the most in kick backs from huge tax cuts to the wealthy. It’s a vicious circle, call me angry in you want but I’ve been battling big medicine for 16 years with an incurable medical condition. I know exactly what I’m paying and to whom. I would strongly urge you to educate yourself in the medical field and the Pharmaceutical industry, then come complaining about how much your paying in taxes. God forbid you or a child of yours comes down with a serious illness or injury. With or without health insurance taxes will be the least of your concerns. Mostly because you won’t be able to afford them………………

        • Big Love

          look i have no interest in pushing grandma down the stairs. im all for covering the indigent and the disabled; especially veterans and those who’ve done something besides sit on their ass their whole life. but all of these wonderful ideas dont do a damn thing to lower the cost of medical care. ive spent a good amount of time studying the problem of employer paid insurance in my capacity as a benefits manager. this problem with spiralling healthcare costs started with the government, as usual. they’ve been paying “Usual and Customary costs for services from day one. They kept going up and the government kept paying. Mo controls. the same thing happens with student aid. the schools keep raising their prices and the government foots the bill or the student graduates with a ton of debt. i dont see anything in these plans that addresses the inability of the government to negotiate lower prices, no tort reform, nothing, just a bigger health insurance premium, higher deductibles, and fewer choices for everyone. well, unless you’re a Senator……or someone who’s never paid a co-pay let alone a premium.
          cut something to pay for it. how about we start with refundable tax credits for the able bodied people who dont pay for rent, food, medical care, …?

  • Hymn56

    The King has spoken.