For Immediate Release
AUGUSTA - The Maine Legislature's Health and Human Services Committee on Wednesday held a public hearing on LD 1578, the bill to force the state to help fund an expansion of medical welfare to at least 70,000 able-bodied adults under ObamaCare.
The committee heard testimony in cyclesfive proponents followed by five opponents, repeated. As of 1:00 PM, after beginning at 9:00 AM, members of the public opposing welfare expansion were still matching testimony with those in favor of it, including welfare lobbyists.
"Usually we hear overwhelmingly from liberal activists and lobbying organizations at hearings regarding Medicaid, but today I was pleasantly surprised to see so many people express concern for Maine's fiscal future," said Rep. Deborah Sanderson (R-Chelsea), the ranking House Republican on the committee.
"Many of these people were hardworking taxpayers who are being squeezed by taxes and seeing services like education and transportation cut because Medicaid is growing and consuming so much of our state budget," said Rep. Heather Sirocki (R-Scarborough).
"It was very compelling to listen to people who are living paycheck to paycheck while paying the taxes that fund DHHS," said Rep. Richard Malaby (R-Hancock). "They are concerned that the welfare system they're funding is no longer going to help the elderly and disabled who truly need it, but able-bodied younger adults."
House Republican Leaders said the hearing was a sign that the realities of welfare expansion are beginning to sink in with the public. A recent poll conducted by a Democratic-leaning Portland firm found a roughly even divide of opinion on Medicaid expansion among Mainers, with 50 percent in support and 45 percent in opposition.
"MaineCare needs to get back to its roots, and that means taking care of our elderly, disabled, and children, including 3,100 disabled Mainers who are on waitlists for services," said House Republican Leader Ken Fredette of Newport. "Expanding medical welfare to as many as 125,000 additional able-bodied adults would undermine those on the waitlists and create an unsustainable new entitlement."
"This is the same exact bill we saw and defeated last year; it is in no way a compromise," added Rep. Fredette. "It's a proposal that would expand the very program that created the state's hospital debt and gave us the $119 million budget shortfall we just recently learned about."
Assistant House Republican Leader Alex Willette of Mapleton, at 24 the youngest legislative leader in Maine's history, said that his generation would be burdened with paying for the massive new entitlement.
"If we want to attract and retain young people to grow our economy and balance out our aging population, we must see a departure from the welfare state Democrats have built up over the decades and the debts and taxes that come with it," he said. "ObamaCare's welfare expansion would hand an $807 million bill to young Mainers at a time when we need change and reform, not more of the same."
Maine House Republicans
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