June 26, 2013

Bill Nemitz: LePage win on Medicaid could be short-lived

By Bill Nemitz bnemitz@pressherald.com
Columnist

(Continued from page 1)

"Republicans are going to have to make a decision," agreed Eves. "Do they want to continue to be aligned with this unpopular Republican governor? Or are they going to start separating themselves?"

The speaker's prediction: The closer we get to November of 2014, the more Republicans who already have voted for Medicaid expansion will be joined by those who even now find themselves on the fence. Considering the plan was within two votes of final passage by the House and just one in the Senate this time, that should be enough to put it over the top with or without LePage's veto pen.

Then we have the leaders of Maine's hospitals, whose support for broader Medicaid coverage -- a no-brainer in view of the $190 million in charity care they shelled out in 2011 -- was clearly (and shamefully) muted by their alliance with LePage on the hospital-payment deal.

With that bill now paid, hospital execs, might you at long last advocate loudly and clearly for the people you're supposed to be serving in the first place? You can start with those 25,000 currently insured Mainers who, come January, will be showing up in your emergency rooms with nothing more than their pain and suffering.

Eves readily admits that the House's failure to override LePage's final Medicaid veto was a "crushing day" for him as speaker. But at the same time, he's pleasantly surprised that the legislation got as far as it did when "under no scenario was the governor going to be supportive of this."

(Actually, LePage at one point did assure Eves and Senate President Justin Alfond, D-Portland, that they could have Medicaid expansion if he could have his non-starter, "right to work" legislation. Some choice: Give up the right to bargain collectively and I'll give you access to affordable health care!)

So to those who now cheer LePage for throwing yet another monkey wrench into the "welfare state," enjoy watching other states -- including tea-party darling Gov. Jan Brewer's Arizona -- spend Maine's money.

To those who now wonder how they'll pay for that medication or CT scan or surgery, meanwhile, stay tuned.

"We will continue to push on this," said Eves. "As long as I'm in this position, this will be a front-burner issue."

Translation: You think it's hot now?

Wait until January.

 

Bill Nemitz can be contacted at 791-6323 or at:

bnemitz@pressherald.com

 

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