For Immediate Release
AUGUSTA - Democratic politicians joined with doctors clad in white lab coats for a press conference today to urge an expansion of Medicaid under the federal Affordable Care Act. Republicans are hesitant to support such an expansion because despite a sales hook of "three free years," we all know that one legislature can't bind another. There is nothing to stop the federal government from reducing or entirely eliminating any part of the proposed federal Medicaid subsidy over the next 10 years, leaving Maine on the hook for hundreds of millions of dollars. Furthermore, there is no plan for funding when those 10 years pass.
"The Democrats seem to be advocating this with an uncritical eye," said House Republican Leader Ken Fredette (R-Newport). "The budget problems we face nowa welfare agency that's $400 million over-budget and a $500 million hospital debtall stem from out of control medical welfare spending. That's why Republicans are a little more skeptical, and that's why the Governor is telling the federal government they need to give Maine flexibility with its Medicaid program and a guarantee of full funding."
"I would hope the Democrats would want Maine to have the flexibility to change its Medicaid eligibility as well as a guarantee of full funding for 10 years," continued Fredette. "If they do, they should back up the Governor in his negotiations and stop the publicity stunts."
Since the last expansion began in 2002, Maine's Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) grew 80 percent and now consumes almost half the state's budget, crowding out funding for education, public safety, and other important functions of state government.
Rep. Fredette was in Washington, D.C. for conferences last week, where he heard from Kathleen Sebelius, the federal HHS Secretary, and Rep. Paul Ryan, the House Chair of the Budget Committee. Fredette noted how Secretary Sebelius essentially said she supports flexibility, with one catch: the states have to agree with her. On the other hand, Rep. Ryan expressed doubts about the sustainability of the federal Medicaid expansion, further underscoring the need for an upfront funding guarantee.
David Sorensen, Communications Director
Maine House Republicans
Tel: (207) 205-7793