Maine Governor Corrects Media on Medicaid Controversy

Published August 28, 2018

In a July 12 email to AP on the day the story was distributed, LePage’s press secretary, Julie Rabinowitz, said the issue is whether the state must expand Medicaid even if no funding is in place, which is currently being argued in court.

“The Governor explicitly said he would go to jail before ‘putting the state in the red,'” Rabinowitz wrote. “He did not say he would go to jail before ‘expanding Medicaid,’ as the headline states.

“The governor has consistently and repeatedly stated Medicaid expansion is the law,” Rabinowitz wrote. “He has also been consistent in saying that he will expand Medicaid if the Legislature can come up with sustainable funding, which they did not. And he has recommended a potential plan to fund it sustainably.”

“This is putting words in his mouth he did not say and misconstruing the legal argument,” Rabinowitz wrote.

Affirms Cost Concerns

Charlie Katebi, a state government relations manager at The Heartland Institute, which publishes Health Care News, says expanding Medicaid to additional able-bodied recipients would drain the state’s fiscal resources away from essential services.

“Prior to now and prior to when LePage first took office in 2010, Maine did offer Medicaid to able-bodied adults below a certain income level,” Katebi said. “I think LePage’s biggest fear is that if he expanded Medicaid again to able-bodied adults, the program would take on the life of most out-of-control entitlements when more people enroll. As costs then go up, it sucks money away from all the other things that people count on state government to do, such as funding law enforcement, schools, and transportation.”

Katebi says Medicaid is an inefficient, bureaucratic approach to increasing access to health care. He recommends reforming the program to disburse assistance directly to recipients to allow them more choice in making their own health care decisions.

“I think we should give the states the power to take the money that would have gone to Medicaid and start giving it to recipients directly in the form of a direct subsidy, voucher, or health savings account in which they would receive direct, taxpayer-funded deposits,” Katebi said. “States need to think beyond the very narrow box of Medicaid. It doesn’t deliver quality health care or access to health care, and it traps people in poverty.”

‘Just Cruel’

Katebi says Medicaid traps recipients in poverty by making them reluctant to lose access by taking available jobs. Katebi says Medicaid is falling far short of its promise to provide access to health care to low-income people.

“Forcing people to go into Medicaid is just cruel,” said Katebi. “It requires them to be poor in order to qualify, and they have to stay poor to keep the benefits. Their access to care is extremely limited, when you look at doctors and hospitals available to them, since the reimbursement rate is so low.