Gov. LePage has a reputation for “telling like it is,” but he has a history that tells another story.

A news release issued Friday is a prime example.

The subject was Question 2 on the state ballot, a citizen initiative to expand Medicaid eligibility under the Affordable Care Act. If implemented, the law would provide health coverage through MaineCare to an estimated 70,000 people, with the federal government paying at least 90 percent of the bill.

LePage has been an opponent of the program since taking office in 2011, and he has vetoed versions of it five times.

Apparently incensed that the Maine Hospital Association supports the initiative, the governor issued a statement that is brief but full of falsehoods.

In it, he thunders, “Medicaid expansion will cost Mainers $500 million over the next five years.” He’s off by almost a factor of two.


The Office of Fiscal and Program Review crunched the numbers when the bill was submitted to the Legislature, and by its estimate the program would cost the state about $54 million a year. Not accounting for savings in the first years of the program, when the federal government would reimburse Maine at a slightly higher rate, the state’s share would be no more than $270 million over five years. That still sounds like a lot of money until you consider that it would be offset by $2.7 billion of federal spending.

That money would be paid to health care providers, including cash-starved rural hospitals, which are often the biggest employers in their host communities. Federal money is not free, but over the last five years, when LePage was refusing to accept federal funds for our health care system, Mainers’ federal taxes were not reduced one cent. Instead, our tax dollars went to support Medicaid expansion elsewhere. Local Maine economies could use that money.

The governor continued: “The last time Maine expanded Medicaid, the elderly and disabled were sent to the back of the line so working-age adults without dependents could get free health care.”

LePage is referring to an eligibility expansion between 2000 and 2012 that he blames for an explosion in MaineCare costs that led to program cuts. He’s right about the sequence of events, but he’s wrong about the cause.

Maine’s previous expansion succeeded at extending coverage, dropping Maine’s uninsured rate to one of the best in the nation.

The MaineCare budget did rise later in the decade, but Medicaid costs increased at the same rate in other states that had not raised eligibility.


What happened? The worst recession since the Great Depression happened. People lost their jobs and their health insurance, making them eligible for the program and driving its budget higher. At the same time, income tax revenue collapsed, and the Legislature and Gov. John Baldacci made tough decisions to cut programs. When LePage came into office as the national economy started to rebound, he chose tax cuts over restoring those programs.

Finally, LePage gets to the heart of his argument when he says that Mainers struggling with their own health care bills should not have to pay to “give free health care to adults who should be working.”

But the governor doesn’t understand that most of them already are working – 67 percent have a job or are looking for one. The truth is that access to health care makes people more likely to be able to work, and denying it to them if they’re sick doesn’t encourage them to get a job – it just makes them sicker.

Voters should not be swayed by Le-Page’s statements. When it comes to health care, the governor is not telling it like it is.

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