The evidence for expanding Medicaid in Maine becomes more compelling by the day, while the reasons for not doing so become less and less so.

Gov. Paul LePage’s objections lost a lot of oomph last week when two Republican senators presented a compromise aimed at addressing his concerns.

State Sen. Tom Saviello, R-Wilton, and Senate Assistant Minority Leader Sen. Roger Katz, R-Augusta, pitched their plan Tuesday to fellow Republicans and then to the press.

Their bill allows Maine to take advantage of the clear advantages of Medicaid expansion while protecting taxpayers from unexpected changes the federal government might make in the program.

First, the compromise proposes a three-year sunset provision. This would allow our state’s economy to receive about $1 million per day in federal funding for three years with little or no risk or downside potential.

Second, the bill would automatically end Maine’s participation if the federal government reneges on its promised funding during those three years.

Third, it would reinstate an idea Republicans pushed and Democrats finally accepted in 2010 to bring in private companies to manage the utilization of MaineCare benefits.

Those companies would be required to reduce Medicaid spending, something Gov. LePage and the Maine Department of Human Services have failed to do in more than three years.

Gov. LePage has correctly complained about Maine’s inability to fully fund services for a group of profoundly disabled people. The Katz-Saviello compromise would use future MaineCare savings to fund those services.

Killing Medicaid expansion, meanwhile, will do nothing to help fund that critical coverage.

LePage has promoted a get-tough approach to Medicaid fraud. The compromise bill would add two Medicaid fraud investigators to the Maine Attorney General’s Office.

So, finally, we have a compromise plan that addresses conservative Republican concerns while allowing Maine to benefit mightily from Medicaid expansion.

And those advantages are so clear that both the Maine Hospital Association and the Maine State Chamber of Commerce have endorsed expanding Medicaid in Maine.

First and most obviously, it would provide basic health care insurance for 70,000 of our friends and neighbors who do not now have insurance. Many of these people work hard, but still cannot afford insurance.

Second, the expansion will be an economic boon for local economies across the state by creating thousands of well-paying health care jobs.

Third, it will reduce charity health care costs, meaning those expenses won’t be shifted to those of us with private and employer health plans.

But the clearer these advantages become, the more determined Gov. LePage becomes to scuttle this program.

Why? Two possible reasons:

First, after taking the wrong stand, it is impossible for him to admit his mistake with an election looming. 

Second, our angry governor seems to have such extraordinary personal animosity toward President Barack Obama that he is even willing to punish the people of Maine to carry out what has become a national tea party vendetta.

So, it falls to reasonable Democrats and Republicans to dispassionately ask how they can best serve our state and its people.

Putting politics aside, they will conclude that expanding Medicaid is best for the entire state of Maine.

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The opinions expressed in this column reflect the views of the ownership and the editorial board.


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