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Governor’s Address: ObamaCare’s Welfare Expansion Has No Place in Health Care Reform

When it comes to health care costs, nothing is free. It will always be expensive for someone—and that someone is you, the taxpayer.

Dear Maine Taxpayer,

Medicaid expansion is back in the news, both nationally and in Maine. In Washington, leaders are debating how to replace ObamaCare. In Maine, socialist welfare lobbyists put Medicaid expansion on the ballot for the November 2017 election.

I have successfully vetoed this misguided policy five times, and I am working hard to ensure it is defeated for good both in Washington and in Maine. ObamaCare’s Medicaid expansion has already been a budget-buster for states. It is a major part of the reason why ObamaCare has completely failed.

Maine learned the problems with expansion the hard way 15 years ago when it expanded Medicaid to able-bodied, working-age adults. Costs and enrollment shattered expectations. The size and cost of the Medicaid program doubled.

Maine’s uninsured rate did not improve. Insured Mainers simply dropped their coverage to get you—the taxpayer—to pay for their new Medicaid entitlement. Uncompensated care in hospitals did not go down, and emergency room usage went up.

Maine’s failed Medicaid expansion experiment sent the MaineCare program into a fiscal tailspin, creating millions of dollars in annual budget shortfalls and $750 million in debt to our hospitals. Medicaid expansion was one of the greatest public policy disasters in Maine history.

My Administration stopped the bleeding. We paid the debt, and we are no longer asking taxpayers every year for bailouts for able-bodied, working-age adults. We did this by managing MaineCare eligibility and refocusing the program on the elderly, the disabled and the mentally ill it was originally intended to serve. We reduced medical welfare enrollment by 86,000 able-bodied, working-age adults. Maine’s uninsured rate has actually gone down, from 10.7% to 8.4%.

That’s because state insurance reforms and federally subsidized private insurance plans, coupled with an improving economy and lower unemployment, put private coverage within reach.

ObamaCare took 12 million healthy young people out of the private health insurance market and put them on Medicaid welfare. Most of ObamaCare’s coverage gains came from Medicaid expansion for able-bodied adults, not from private insurance on the exchange. One of the primary goals was to get healthy young people to buy insurance and drive down premiums for everyone. It didn’t happen.

I have been actively involved in conversations with federal leaders about the need for real health care reform—reform that drops misguided mandates in the private insurance market; maintains a way to help low-income, working people to pay into private plans; and makes Medicaid a safety net for the elderly and disabled.

Leaving Medicaid expansion intact in federal law, then implementing it in Maine, would be another costly disaster that would do nothing to expand health coverage. It would put healthy, young adults on welfare, while leaving thousands of severely disabled Mainers on waitlists for services.

It’s time to end the Medicaid expansion Ponzi scheme once and for all. Our health, our wallets and our country will be better for it.

Thank You,

Paul R. LePage


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