For Immediate Release
AUGUSTA - Majority Democrats on the Maine Legislature's Health and Human Services (HHS) Committee late Thursday afternoon voted in favor of LD 1578, the bill to expand Medicaid to able-bodied adults under ObamaCare. All five of the committee's Republican lawmakers voted against the controversial measure.
The vote comes as a general consensus forms around the eventual defeat of the expansion bill after a certain veto from Governor Paul LePage. Most observers agree that Democrats lack the bipartisan support necessary to override the Governor's veto.
"Ultimately, the bill failed to gain enough bipartisan support because we all see the toll Medicaid has taken on our state's economy and budget for so many years," said Rep. Deborah Sanderson (R-Chelsea), Lead House Republican on the HHS Committee. "We're being asked to expand a welfare program that has racked up hundreds of millions in debt to our hospitals and gives us chronic budget shortfalls, crowding out scarce funding for other programs and putting an upward pressure on taxes."
House Republicans have been emphasizing in recent weeks the fact that most of those who would be eligible for expanded Medicaid are already eligible for low-deductible plans on the federal exchange for just a few dollars per month.
"Republicans want to help low-income people obtain coverage, but there's already a mechanism under the ACA for that," said Rep. Heather Sirocki (R-Scarborough), also of the HHS Committee. "Expanding Medicaid for 70,000 able-bodied adults under ObamaCare would only make it more difficult for our state to help the severely disabled Mainers who languish on waitlists and the seniors in our nursing homes who aren't receiving the support Medicaid should be providing them."
After initially supporting the expansion measure, Rep. Carol McElwee (R-Caribou) changed her vote in light of new information and after hearing from countless constituents.
"I've really researched the issue and I believe that the exchange provides a reasonable alternative for coverage," said Rep. McElwee. "I've also seen firsthand in the HHS Committee how past Medicaid expansions have hindered our ability to fund critical services for our neediest disabled and elderly neighbors. Finally, my conversations with constituents have made clear that the people of Caribou don't want to see our state continue to head in the direction of more spending and debt."
McElwee added that she was concerned about the difference in cost estimates between the Department of Health and Human Services and the legislature's Office of Fiscal and Program Review.
"Despite what anyone says, there is a real cost to expansion," she added.
The Medicaid expansion bill will now move to the House of Representatives for a floor vote at a time of the majority party's choosing.
Maine House Republicans
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