Opinion

Proponents of Medicaid must put their money where their mouth is

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Proponents of Medicaid expansion have not been honest with the Maine people. They claim it’s free because the federal government will foot the bill for this massive expansion of welfare.

Folks, it’s just not true.

The federal government will pay approximately 60 percent of the costs for some of the new Medicaid recipients. The feds may pay up to 90 percent for some Medicaid recipients, but Maine still has to pay its share of the costs — and those costs will be significant.

Maine’s share of Medicaid expansion will cost taxpayers more than $60 million in the first year, then will increase to $100 million or more every year after that. Before we can implement Medicaid expansion, we have to hire and train 105 new employees at DHHS.

Politicians in Augusta—and in Washington, D.C.— lobbied hard to expand this government entitlement, but they have absolutely no idea how to pay for it. Once again, they were writing checks they can’t cash.

I have no problem implementing the will of the people. However, these politicians must first determine how the state is going to pay for “free” health care for 80,000 people. We have spent seven years restoring fiscal sanity to Augusta, and I will not let them endanger the state’s financial health.

As they figure out how to pay for this massive entitlement they promised, these politicians must follow some basic parameters. First, they must not raise taxes on Maine families and businesses. We have spent seven years lowering taxes on the Maine people and improving the business climate. Now is not the time to go backwards.

Second, they must not raid the rainy day fund. We have worked hard to replenish this important fund, which provides a safety net if the budget is hit with an unexpected crisis, like a recession. Increasing the rainy day fund has also improved our credit rating, which lowers the cost of bonds.

Third, and most important, politicians in Augusta must live up to their responsibilities to the thousands of our most vulnerable Mainers who are still on waitlists for services. These elderly or disabled Mainers desperately need services, but the Legislature has consistently failed to provide funding for them.

Leaving needy Mainers to languish on waitlists while giving free health care to able-bodied adults is unconscionable.

Finally, the federal government wants Maine to pay back the $60 million the Legislature has drawn down for the Riverview Psychiatric Center. Politicians have been kicking this can down the road since 2012, and now they must finally pay the bill.

Many politicians conveniently forget that the last time Maine expanded Medicaid, it blew holes in the budget every year. The Legislature lurched from crisis to crisis and scrambled to find one-time gimmicks to fund the budget. We cannot let the past repeat itself.

I look forward to expanding Medicaid. I just want the Legislature to fund it in a fiscally responsible manner. These politicians like to talk the talk—now they have to walk the walk. Show me the money.

As I always say, “free” is very expensive to someone. It’s a shame that someone will be the Maine taxpayer.

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