September 12, 2013

Legislature fails to override LePage Medicaid veto

It passes with a strong majority, but not enough to be veto-proof and expand health care to 60,000 more Mainers.

By Steve Mistler smistler@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 1)

click image to enlarge

In this December 2012 file photo, Peggy Akers, a nurse practitioner who volunteers at the India Street Public Health Clinic in Portland, examines Charles Lafland during a physical exam at the clinic. Gov. Paul LePage vetoed a Medicaid-expansion bill on Monday, June 17, 2013, denying 60,000 low-income Mainers health care under the Affordable Care Act. House Democrats' last-ditch effort to override the veto came up three votes short on Wednesday, June 19, 2013.

Gregory Rec / Staff Photographer

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The compromise crafted by Katz attempted to ease Republican concerns by including federal reimbursement guarantees, an independent cost-benefit study and a "hard sunset" to end the program after the first three years of full federal funding.

Republican's opposition, however, proved constant and fluid, moving from concerns about the federal government's ability to fund the program to cost overruns in the state's Medicaid program, MaineCare.

More recently, the opposition shifted attention to a list of severely disabled Mainers who receive health coverage but are waiting for additional services for which they qualify.

The waiting list is the subject of a court action filed May 28 that effectively compelled the LePage administration to cover qualified recipients. The state's next two-year budget proposal devotes about $10.4 million to extend services to residents on the waiting list.

Medicaid expansion would extend coverage to adults without children who earn as much as $20,500 a year. Under the amended bill, eligibility would expire after three years, when federal reimbursements for the program are scheduled to decline from 100 percent to 90 percent, unless the Legislature took additional action.

Maine also would receive 100 percent funding to cover about 50,000 additional childless adults under Medicaid expansion.

Twenty-one states have chosen not to participate in Medicaid expansion this year. Several states are still debating the issue.

The Medicaid issue could play into next year's gubernatorial election.

Democratic U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud, who is exploring a run for governor, urged Democrats to fight for expansion and visited the House Democratic caucus in May to push the issue.

This week, Michaud released a statement through his exploratory committee asking lawmakers to override LePage's veto and support Katz's amendment.

"Gov. LePage has said 'no' to a plan that would have helped Maine's economy, protected rural hospitals, created nearly 4,500 jobs and helped to improve the lives of men and women who work, but can't afford health insurance," Michaud said.

Independent candidate Eliot Cutler also urged lawmakers to override the governor's veto.

"It's sad that a bipartisan coalition of legislators worked so hard to develop and pass complicated legislation that is in the best interest of all Mainers, only to have Gov. LePage once again make the wrong choice for Maine," Cutler said in a prepared statement.

Steve Mistler can be contacted at 620-7016 or at:

smistler@pressherald.com

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