Maine voters approve Medicaid expansion

Maine voters approve Medicaid expansion
© Greg Nash

Maine voters on Tuesday decided to expand Medicaid to cover more low-income adults, becoming the first state to do so through a referendum.

Support for the ballot measure was up by more than 18 points with 64 percent of precincts reporting about 10 p.m. when it was called by NBC affiliate WCSH and The Associated Press.

The results in Maine, one of 19 states that rejected Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act, comes as other Republican-led states like Utah and Idaho eye similar ballot measures.

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Advocates of Medicaid expansion in Maine successfully petitioned the state to include a question on this year’s ballot following several failed legislative efforts to expand the program.

Gov. Paul LePage (R) vetoed five bills passed by the state’s legislature, arguing that it would be disastrous for the state’s economy.

About 80,000 Maine residents living below 133 percent of the federal poverty line will now be eligible for the state’s Medicaid program, according to the state.

The national battle over Medicaid expansion began in 2012 when the Supreme Court ruled that an ObamaCare provision requiring all states to expand Medicaid was unconstitutional.

Instead, states were given the option to expand their programs, and to date, 31 states and Washington, D.C., have done so, with the federal government picking up most of the cost.

But a number of mostly red states, including Maine, have held out, arguing the federal government shouldn’t be picking up the tab to cover childless, “able-bodied” adults who could get insurance elsewhere.