Give Maine voters what they want and expand Medicaid in the state

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Maine made history this month by becoming the first state to pass Medicaid expansion at the ballot box. After five unsuccessful attempts to override Gov. Paul LePage’s vetoes, Maine people took matters into their own hands and elected to expand health care coverage to 70,000 of their neighbors.

On the heels of the GOP’s attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act earlier this year, Medicaid expansion received a majority of the vote in both of Maine’s congressional districts, including Maine’s second congressional district, which went for President Trump in 2016. Last year, Maine’s second congressional district also supported a referendum to increase the minimum wage from $7.50 to $12.00 by the year 2020 and approved a bond to invest in the state’s infrastructure.

{mosads}Taken together, these three voter-approved initiatives say a lot about a district that voted for President Obama in 2008 and 2012, and for President Trump in 2016. Voters are tired of feeling left behind as the district’s economy continues to struggle to recover from the Great Recession.

The voters have spoken. But like most things in government these days, the fight is not over. It’s just beginning. The day after Medicaid expansion passed, Gov. LePage and his allies in the state legislature immediately issued public statements saying they would refuse to implement the voter-approved law.

In Maine, you can count on a few things: Snow in the winter, tourists in the summer, and the governor manufacturing political and financial crises that don’t actually exist. Earlier this year, Republicans in the Maine House blocked several voter-approved referendums and even shutdown government as a tactic to defy the will of the people.

Now they are at it again, using misleading data and information to claim Maine can’t afford to expand Medicaid, when in fact, Maine can’t afford not to. For every state dollar invested, Maine will get nine back, bringing almost $500 million in federal investment into the state’s economy.

This isn’t just about the health of Maine’s citizens, it’s also about the health of Maine’s economy. The health care sector is one of the largest employers in the state, and that infusion of federal health care dollars is expected to create 3,000 new jobs in Maine. Without Medicaid expansion, rural Maine hospitals and health care providers will continue to struggle to keep their doors open and we will lose more jobs. With it, we create new forms of revenue and we create new jobs.

The reality is that one in five people in Maine are on Medicaid. Many of them are seniors living in poverty and in need of long-term care and housing. Meanwhile, 70,000 people with no health care coverage continue to seek treatment from a system that can’t continue to provide it without reimbursement.

Congressman Bruce Poliquin and the governor can’t accept that they are on the wrong side of one of the chief moral issues of our time, which is whether or not all Americans should have access to affordable health care. Poliquin may think he knows better than the people he represents, but the majority of them agree with me that income shouldn’t determine your ability to obtain medical care. In a sharp rebuke to Poliquin’s vote to repeal the Affordable Care Act and cut Medicaid, his constituents chose to expand it.

As the House majority whip in the Maine House of Representatives I am prepared to take every fair and sensible measure necessary to ensure the people’s voice is heard and respected, and that thousands of Maine citizens without health care get it. Last week, Republicans made false claims that I would raise taxes on working and middle class Mainers to pay for Medicaid expansion in Maine.

To be clear, the only folks talking about raising taxes on working and middle class people in this country are Republicans in Washington so they can pay for massive tax cuts to the wealthy and corporations, many of which don’t provide health care benefits to their employees. The GOP tax plan also doubles down on the total assault on health care by seeking to repeal the medical expense tax deduction, a tool thousands of Maine’s elderly and seriously ill take advantage of each year.

There really may be no limit to the lengths that Congressman Poliquin will go to protect and promote the interests of the mega wealthy. Instead of giveaways to the rich, he should work to eliminate the loopholes that the wealthy use to get out of paying their fair share.

Ultimately, Bruce Poliquin may decide to keep playing to his base. But it’s hard to imagine they’re excited about losing deductions and tax credits as a partial payment for tax cuts for millionaires, while adding $1.5 trillion to the national debt. That’s not exactly fiscal conservatism.

Meanwhile, when the Maine legislature reconvenes in January, my colleagues and I will begin work immediately to fund and implement the Medicaid expansion that Maine voters have demanded.

Jared Golden is the assistant majority leader in the Maine House of Representatives and Democratic candidate to represent the second congressional district of Maine.

Tags Bruce Poliquin Healthcare Maine Medicaid Paul LePage Politics Republicans

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