Medicaid expansion spells economic woe
The lessons of Maine’s 2002 expansion of Medicaid are being lost in the current campaign to further expand coverage for able-bodied, childless adults between the ages of 21 and 65. Enrollment in 2002 exploded after that expansion, while the uninsured rate remained flat, our GDP actually slowed instead of their predicted growth, and the charity care at hospitals continued to increase. Many enrollees dropped their private insurance to switch to Medicaid. Our costs skyrocketed with the expansion, while doctors received less compensation, and hospitals went unpaid. Today, the hospitals have all been paid, but fewer doctors are accepting Medicaid patients It is estimated that this expansion alone will cost Maine upwards of $54 million annually, and require over 100 new state positions to administer it.
What is really disturbing is the money which has pushed this referendum question before Maine voters this November. Over $196,000 was raised to convince Maine to expand Medicaid, and 38 percent ($75,000) came from an out of state group called The Fairness Project, backed by the Service Employees International Union. The remaining support came from various progressive groups in Maine, including the Maine Peoples Alliance and Planned Parenthood. In contrast, one group, Welfare to Work, spent a total of $229 to oppose the expansion. The Maine Center for Economic Policy was paid $965 to collect the needed signatures to get this question on the ballot – almost three times the entire expenditure to oppose it.
We are once more being forced to vote on an issue that our own state government has repeatedly rejected, by a heavily funded campaign which gets more than one third of its funding from outside of Maine. After our last expansion, there were wait lists of elderly and disabled Mainers in dire need of services, due to the burdens of covering healthy, able-bodied childless adults.
Let us not repeat the mistake made in 2002. Follow the money and see that outside interests are pushing an expansion that has not worked in Maine before, and is not working in many of the states that have already expanded Medicaid. This expansion will not help our elderly and disabled, and spells economic woe for our state.