With the 2017 general election under way, attention has turned to whether Mainers will vote to finally expand Medicaid to tens of thousands of our friends, family, and neighbors who remain uninsured after five separate legislative efforts to expand coverage were vetoed by Gov. Paul LePage. With Question 2 on the ballot, we finally have an opportunity to stand toe-to-toe with the governor and and demand that Maine follow the lead of dozens of other states in expanding access to the federal healthcare program for members of the working poor in our state.

A component of the Affordable Care Act, Medicaid expansion has been a target of LePage oriented Maine Republicans for years, despite overwhelming evidence in other states — including Republican-controlled states like Kentucky — that expansion increases coverage, lowers costs, and provides immense benefits to states that opt in to the program.

One of the reasons that expansion has been so successful is that 90 percent of the costs of expansion are covered by the federal government, which means that smaller, poorer states like Maine are able to provide dramatically increased coverage without significantly impacting state budgets. But the most hardcore fringe of the Republican establishment has tried to use this benefit as a point of attack against expansion by arguing that they do not trust the federal government to hold up its end of the bargain and fully fund their share of the program.

One such voice on the right making this argument is former Maine DHHS secretary and current Republican gubernatorial candidate Mary Mayhew, who while describing her opposition to Question 2 was quoted last week as saying that she has “zero confidence” that the federal government will follow through on its commitment to reimburse the Medicaid costs.

It is worth noting that the only efforts to halt federal Medicaid funding to states have come from Republicans themselves, who have used their current control of Congress to try to unsuccessfully ram through dramatic cuts to Medicaid reimbursement as a part of their continued efforts to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. So essentially, conservative Republicans are simultaneously the only ones voicing concern over the federal government holding up its end, and are the exact ones trying to push the federal government to renege on its commitment to the states.

This is an elegant dance of hypocrisy that I call “the Republican

Two-Step.” It’s an easy dance that they have learned to play well: step one is to sabotage and corrupt a governmental program through intentional mismanagement; step two is to turn around and use that mismanagement to cast doubt on the entire program.

Mayhew would have you vote against Question 2 because she doesn’t trust her own allies to keep their promises to the states. But what she isn’t telling you is that after a year of complete Republican control of the federal government and 26 states, her fears (or hopes) of conservatives eviscerating the Medicaid program have not come to pass. Why? Because Medicaid is so successful in the 31 states that have passed expansion that Republicans can no longer even convince themselves that ending the program is a good idea.

LePage, Mayhew, and the most radical factions of the Maine GOP have been waging a rearguard campaign in our state to ultimately make it easier to kill Medicaid entirely. It’s clear that despite their best efforts and political dance moves that they are failing.

And today, Maine has a chance to change the tune entirely.

The preceding originally appeared on mainebeacon.com, a website and podcast created by progressive group the Maine People’s Alliance.


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