Maine Voters Buck LePage as Medicaid Expansion Wins at the Polls

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Maine Voters Buck LePage as Medicaid Expansion Wins at the Polls

Nicole Knight

An estimated 70,000 Mainers living at or below the poverty line will be eligible for Medicaid after years of obstruction from the state's Republican governor.

Maine voters on Tuesday overcame the opposition of their Republican governor in voting for a ballot initiative to extend health insurance to some 70,000 residents with low incomes.

The result of the ballot measure was called Tuesday night by NBC affiliate WCSH6. With 64 percent of precincts reporting, the New York Times had the ballot initiative, known as Question 2, with 59.3 percent of the vote.

Maine joins 31 states and the District of Columbia that have adopted Medicaid expansion made possible under the Affordable Care Act. Utah and Idaho, Republican-dominated states, are working to put the question of Medicaid expansion to voters, as the New York Times reported.

The measure promises to extend health care to much of Maine’s uninsured population. An estimated 70,000 Mainers living at or below 138 percent of the poverty line, which is $16,643 for an individual or $22,412 for a family of two, are gaining coverage. In Maine, 106,000 people were uninsured in 2016, according to recent Census data. 

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People who work for low wages and military veterans are among those expected to benefit, according to Mainers for Health Care, the pro-expansion ballot committee.

“Folks that range from working mothers, veterans, small business owners, older Mainers who don’t yet qualify for Medicare, and people really all over the state,” David Farmer, the communications director for Mainers for Health Care, told Rewire last month.

The federal government would pick up 90 percent of the cost of the expansion. The state would spend $27 million per year, reaching $70 million in the third year, according to the nonpartisan Office of Fiscal and Program Review, as WLBZ reported. Supporters said projected savings would reduce the net cost of the program to $13.6 million in year one, $31 million in year two, and $43 million in year three.

Maine’s governor, Republican Paul LePage, has for years rejected Medicaid expansion, and he lobbied against making health care more accessible in the months leading up to Election Day. LePage has vetoed expansion legislation five times.