As Question 2 is about to go to vote, Governor Paul LePage is lashing out at hospital executives and accusing state government entities of spreading misinformation regarding the potential costs of MaineCare expansion.
Maine Question 2, 2017, “An Act to Enhance Access to Affordable Health Care,” asks voters, “Do you want Maine to expand Medicaid to provide healthcare coverage for qualified adults under age 65 with incomes at or below 138 percent of the federal poverty level, which in 2017 means $16,643 for a single person and $22,412 for a family of two?”
If this question were to pass, Maine would join 32 other states, including Washington, D.C., in accepting federal funds to expand the state Medicaid program, allowing coverage for approximately 70,000 childless adults. Under the Affordable Care Act, the federal government would cover 95 percent of Medicaid expansion costs, and decline to 90 percent of costs in 2020 and beyond.
Gov. LePage’s opposition is expected, since he has spent his tenure leading efforts to cut the state Medicaid program and reduce eligibility limits and benefits, and has vetoed six Medicaid expansion proposals. During an interview on the George Hale and Ric Tyler Show on WVOM-FM, he claimed that Medicaid expansion would cost Maine at least $100 million per year to cover both subsets, nearly double the estimate of the Office of Fiscal and Program Review (OFPR), at a net impact of $54.4 million.
“This is where the truth in advertising just doesn’t exist anymore, it’s like fake news,” LePage said in the radio interview. “This is all about hospitals making sure that they get their marginal dollar so they can expand.” He decried OFPR as a “Democratic-run state office,” but did not cite evidence to support his claim that their estimates were deliberately misleading.
When asked to comment on these questionable statements, State Rep. Brian Hubbell (D-Bar Harbor) summarized the claims made during the interview in an email:
“As a pioneer of post-truth politics, Governor LePage consistently deprecates any facts which are at odds with his preconceptions. His assertion on talk radio on Tuesday that the costs of Question 2 are more than double what is calculated by objective analysis hangs on the scurrilous implication that the Legislature’s Office of Fiscal and Program Review is somehow cooking the books. A statehouse institution of impeccable rectitude, OFPR is relentlessly non-partisan and, as a member of the Appropriations Committee, I can attest that their highest allegiance is to hard data irrespective of where my colleagues and I might wish the evidence to lead.”