Maine’s governor is trying to block the state’s Medicaid expansion the day after voters overwhelmingly supported it

Gov. Paul LePage of Maine.

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Gov. Paul LePage of Maine.
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Brian Snyder/Reuters

    Maine voters on Tuesday approved a measure to expand Medicaid in the state. Gov. Paul LePage, a Republican who has repeatedly blocked attempts to expand the program, on Wednesday said he would not allow the measure to become law until the legislature determined that it would be paid for in full. The expansion would allow as many as 80,000 low-income Mainers access to health insurance.

The day after voters in Maine overwhelmingly supported an expansion of the state’s Medicaid program, the state’s governor said he would block its implementation.

Gov. Paul LePage said in a statement Wednesday that he would not allow implementation until the state legislature made certain changes to its budget.

“Credit agencies are predicting that this fiscally irresponsible Medicaid expansion will be ruinous to Maine’s budget,” LePage said. “Therefore, my administration will not implement Medicaid expansion until it has been fully funded by the Legislature at the levels DHHS has calculated, and I will not support increasing taxes on Maine families, raiding the rainy day fund or reducing services to our elderly or disabled.”

LePage has the ability to send the measure back to the Maine legislature to come up with a funding mechanism, allowinf him to slow the expansion at the least.

Fifty-nine percent of Maine voters agreed with a ballot measure proposing to expand Medicaid, a margin of over 60,000 people.

The change would allow people making up to 138% of the federal poverty level to obtain health coverage under the program – Medicaid in Maine today is available to people making up to the poverty line. According to estimates, this would allow 70,000 to 80,000 more lower-income Mainers to obtain insurance coverage.

LePage has a history of blocking Medicaid expansion in the state, vetoing bills to expand the program four times.

During the run-up to the vote, LePage argued that the expansion would be a significant financial burden on the state, saying it could cost upward of $100 million a year. Maine’s Office of Fiscal and Program Review, however, found that the federal government would shoulder $525 million a year for the program and that the state would pay just over $55 million a year.