AUGUSTA — A coalition of police agencies and medical providers is backing another attempt to expand Medicaid coverage in Maine, this time with a compromise measure tied to the heroin crisis.

The coalition today will release details of a plan that would give 70,000 low-income people the option of getting health insurance through a program that uses a combination of Medicaid and private health insurance.

Its sponsor, Sen. Tom Saviello, R-Wilton, said the bill is modeled after a hybrid initiative used in conservative states, including Indiana and Arkansas.

“We can learn from other states that were successful,” he said. He declined to provide more details on the bill.

Supporters include the Maine Hospital Association, the Maine Sheriffs Association and the Maine Chiefs of Police Association.

Gov. Paul LePage’s administration said Monday it would oppose the measure because adding thousands of able-bodied, childless adults to Medicaid rolls would be so expensive that it would take away funds for the state’s neediest, such as people with developmental disabilities.

The Legislature has passed several Medicaid expansion bills but has failed to override LePage’s vetoes.

“Gov. LePage is the only governor in the United States to veto Medicaid expansion, and he has done it five times,” said Rep. Drew Gattine, D-Westbrook, who co-chairs the Legislature’s Health and Human Services Committee that will take up the bill on Tuesday.

Many people with substance abuse addiction don’t have health insurance and can’t afford treatment, said Sagadahoc County Sheriff Joel Merry, who heads the sheriffs association.

Getting people treatment using insurance subsidies funded by the federal government would be a better way to battle the heroin crisis than relying on law enforcement alone, he said. He said local taxpayers are now shouldering police and incarceration costs, and this proposal would bring more federal funds to the effort.

“We know there are a lot of people who don’t have the means to access the services they need to get their lives back into balance and to stop the use of narcotics and other drugs,” he said.


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