AUGUSTA — Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap dodged a political dust-up Thursday about the wording of a referendum on whether to expand Medicaid in Maine.
The proposed wording of the question initially referred to Medicaid as “health insurance,” a description that raised ire among conservatives who insisted it is more fair to call it welfare than insurance.
Dunlap sidestepped the issue by simply dropping any characterization of Medicaid in favor of a strictly neutral wording.
Maine GOP Executive Director Jason Savage thanked Dunlap for the move. In a prepared statement, Savage said it is “encouraging to see a correct and nonpartisan decision made in the interest of informing voters a??bout this very expensive proposal to expand Maine’s welfare benefits.”
Dunlap, though, did not give Gov. Paul LePage what he wanted.
“It’s free health care paid for by the taxpayers, and it’s got to be said that way,” the governor told a radio station last month.
“It’s pure welfare,” LePage said. “If you don’t want to call it welfare, call it an entitlement.”
Dunlap refrained from calling it welfare or an entitlement. He simply let the program’s name, Medicaid, speak for itself.
“Crafting the ballot questions is always a challenge, given the need to accurately summarize complex legislation,” Dunlap said in a news release.
“We try to capture the essence of each proposal in the question, but it is incumbent upon the voters to educate themselves on all of the details, which cannot be intelligibly included in that single sentence on the ballot,” he said.
The final wordings of two citizen-initiated ballot questions — on Medicaid expansion and on whether to allow slot machines or a casino in York County — were announced Thursday after a 30-day comment period that drew more than 150 responses.
The Medicaid ballot question will read, “Do you want Maine to expand Medicaid to provide health care coverage for qualified adults under age 65 with incomes at or below 138% of the federal poverty level, which in 2017 means $16,643 for a single person and $22,412 for a family of two?”
The Bureau of Corporations, Elections and Commissions plans to offer Citizens’ Guide to the 2017 Election this fall that will be available on its website and in public libraries throughout Maine.
There are also two state-sponsored ballot questions, one on infrastructure improvements and one that would change the financial guidelines for state pension requirements.