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Governor’s Address: Medicaid Expansion Activists Will Hurt People Who Need Help Just To Prove a Point

Medicaid-expansion advocates plan to bring busloads of able-bodied adults to DHHS offices on July 2 to enroll in MaineCare. But the Legislature has not provided any money to process their applications or to pay their medical bills.

Medicaid expansion is the law, it is my responsibility to implement it, and I will. However, the Executive Branch cannot commit to hundreds of millions of dollars in ongoing costs without an appropriation to pay for it.

We are appealing the lawsuit that compels DHHS to expand Medicaid with no funding. The activists suing the state believe that, by enrolling busloads of able-bodied people on July 2, they’ll commit the state to Medicaid expansion.

These activists at Maine Equal Justice Partners want the state to spend tens of millions of dollars in unappropriated money in the next fiscal year alone – and then hundreds of millions of dollars over the next two budgets.

Some of these people who will show up on July 2 can be covered by subsidized insurance on the exchange. But they will give this up to get “free” healthcare from the taxpayers.

Robyn Merrill, the executive director of the Maine Equal Justice Partners, is willing to put the truly needy, such as the elderly and people with disabilities, at the back of the line while her agency floods DHHS offices with able-bodied adults.

So here’s what happens if thousands of people show up on July 2 to enroll in MaineCare:

Between 70,000 and 90,000 additional able-bodied adults are likely eligible for coverage under Medicaid expansion. Let’s say only 25 percent of them, about 20,000 people, apply for coverage in the first month – that is more than twice as many new applications that DHHS gets for all benefit programs each month.

DHHS staff must review each applicant’s records and conduct interviews to ensure the person qualifies for the program. We need this type of oversight to prevent welfare fraud. It’s only good management.

It will be impossible for DHHS to handle these applications without hiring new staff. But the Legislature has not provided funding to hire them.

If DHHS does not determine whether a person is eligible for Medicaid within 45 days, that person becomes entitled to full coverage – regardless of the merits of the application.

This will force DHHS to simply deny all applications they don’t have time to review. We have to avoid putting the state on the hook for medical bills of potentially hundreds and even thousands of people.

While this is going on, people who need to have their benefits recertified, like a single mother with young children, will be bumped to the back of the line. Because DHHS won’t have enough staff to get to their application, these truly needy will risk losing their SNAP or TANF benefits.

Progressives just want chaos at DHHS offices. They want sensational headlines. They are putting politics before people.

My administration will continue to prioritize the truly needy over the able-bodied. This is about effective and appropriate management.

Good management doesn’t make headlines, but it does make for good government.

Thank you.

Paul LePage

Governor

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