Maine

Maine Governor Paul LePage (R) — an outspoken supporter of President Trump — has just been forced to implement the most popular part of Obamacare.

In the November 2017 election, 58 percent of Maine voters approved Question 2, which would require the state to participate in the Affordable Care Act’s (Obamacare’s) expansion of Medicaid — the federally funded state health insurance plan that provides basic health coverage to working class Americans.

However, Gov. LePage refused to heed the will of voters, arguing that Maine was “a poor state” and didn’t have the estimated $54.5 million annual contribution needed from Maine (the federal government funds the vast bulk of Medicaid expansion) to provide working families with basic healthcare. This is despite LePage forcing through $111 million in state tax breaks — most of which went to the state’s wealthiest residents.

“These tax breaks don’t create jobs or boost the economy. They simply divert public resources away from the public needs to pad profits for corporations, pass-through entities and millionaires — the same special interests who are already reaping hundreds of millions of dollars in tax breaks from the Trump Tax Plan,” said Garrett Martin, executive director of the Maine Center for Economic Policy.

But on Monday, Kennebec County (Maine) Superior Court Justice Michaela Murphy ruled in favor of voters in response to a lawsuit filed by citizens’ groups who say LePage should be compelled to implement Medicaid expansion. Approximately 70,000 residents of the state would qualify for expanded Medicaid, according to the lawsuit.

Now, Maine Department of Health and Human Services Commissioner Ricker Hamilton — whom LePage appointed last year — is forced to submit an implementation plan by no later than next Monday, according to Judge Murphy’s ruling.

“The Court is not persuaded that the executive branch is excused from clear statutory obligations,” Judge Murphy wrote in the 13-page decision. “[Hamilton] has not cited to any authority suggesting that an agency can be considered to have substantially complied with a directory statute by taking no action at all. The Court concludes that the Commissioner’s complete failure to act cannot be considered substantial compliance.”

Despite “Obamacare” being a divisive term used by Republicans to score political points against the opposition, Medicaid expansion has proven to be one of the most popular parts of the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare). According to a 2017 survey from the Kaiser Family Foundation, 74 percent of Americans held either a “very favorable” or “somewhat favorable” view of Medicaid. This includes 84 percent of Democrats, 76 percent of Independents, and 61 percent of Republicans.

Virginia — another states that refused to expand Medicaid — is now also expanding the popular healthcare after a recent vote in the state senate in favor of a biennial budget that includes Medicaid expansion. Three Republicans defected from their party to give Democrats the majority they needed to pass the budget bill out of the chamber. Utah — one of the reddest states in the country — will be including Medicaid expansion on the ballot this November.

 

Tom Cahill is a contributor for Grit Post who covers political and economic news. He lives in Bend, Oregon. Send him an email at tom DOT v DOT cahill AT gmail DOT com.

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