Maine will be the first state in the country to have a popular vote on Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act this November. The people of the state succeeded in overriding their incompetent, bombastic Gov. Paul LePage by getting a citizen’s initiative onto the ballot. Now, however, they’re fighting their governor again over the wording of the ballot initiative. LePage is trying to torpedo the initiative with semantics, calling Medicaid “welfare.”
Mainers have until Friday to weigh in on the exact wording of a ballot initiative, which if it passes would allow Maine to join the 30-plus states that have expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act.
Conservative groups and state Republicans, led by Maine’s firebrand Gov. Paul LePage (R), are pushing for the Medicaid expansion to be characterized on the ballot as welfare in the hopes that people will then vote it down.
“It’s free health care paid for by the taxpayers, and it’s got to be said that way,” LePage told talk radio hosts at WGAN last Thursday. “It’s pure welfare. If you don’t want to call it welfare, call it an entitlement.”
In the same interview, LePage threatened to sue the secretary of state if the final ballot language calls the Medicaid expansion “insurance.”
“I’m going to challenge that,” he vowed.
The 23 percent of Mainers who are on Medicaid aren’t going to appreciate that attack from LePage. Medicaid is health insurance. Period. It’s not a cash benefit to enrollees, it’s an insurance program. One that helps keep 271,000 Mainers healthy. That’s people with disabilities, kids, seniors, and pregnant women.
Expansion could bring coverage to another 70,000 people, which is one of the reasons organizers had little problem gaining the 60,000 signatures they needed to get the initiative on the ballot. They’ve been fighting LePage over this for years. The state legislature has passed a Medicaid expansion bill five times, and five times LePage has vetoed it. Going over his head with a ballot initiative is the last resort for the people of state and LePage is going to fight as dirty as he can, including making this about race with a message about expansion being welfare for an undeserving immigrant population.
He’s got a fight there, because Medicaid has been around long enough and has a large enough reach through the population that it’s not only popular, a huge majority of the population is familiar with it because it has benefited them or their families. They’re not going to appreciate LePage’s insinuation that they and their families are undeserving.