AUGUSTA — Health care advocates in Maine say they have more than enough signatures to get a referendum to expand Medicaid coverage on the November ballot.

Now it’s up to the Secretary of State’s office to verify the signatures.

The Mainers for Health Care campaign said Wednesday the additional federal funding would cover tens of thousands of state residents who can’t afford health insurance but have been denied coverage through Medicaid.

Nationwide, 19 Republican governors successfully defied the Affordable Care Act’s mandate that states open up Medicaid to more people. Republican Gov. Paul LePage has rebuffed legislation offered by Democrats and Republicans that would authorize the state to accept the federal Medicaid funds.

LePage’s spokeswoman Adrienne Bennett said that Maine expanded Medicaid a decade ago and that the state has only recently paid off Maine’s debt to hospitals for unpaid Medicaid services, which totaled almost $500 million.

“Rather than expand welfare and burden taxpayers, the governor demands that the system first take care of Maine’s truly needy: the elderly and disabled who are still waiting for services,” Bennett wrote in an email.

Democratic House Speaker Sara Gideon said that an expansion to cover about 70,000 more Mainers would make more than $500 million in new federal funds available to reimburse health care in the state.

But how Republicans will reshape former President Barack Obama’s health care law remains uncertain. In light of that, the Maine GOP called the referendum a moot point and a waste of state resources.


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