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home : • politics : • government
January 27, 2020

3/13/2014 10:17:00 AM
Eye on Augusta: Medicaid Expansion Falls Short of Veto-Proof Majority in Maine Senate
by Andy O’Brien

On a largely party-line vote of 22-13 on Wednesday, March 12, the Maine Senate failed to achieve a veto-proof majority on a measure to accept over $300 million in federal funding to provide health care coverage for up to 70,000 low-income Mainers. Senate Republicans rejected a compromise amendment sponsored by Assistant Republican Leader Roger Katz (Kennebec County) and Sen. Tom Saviello (R-Franklin County), which would set up a system of managed care, requiring the state to contract with managed care organizations (MCOs) to oversee Medicaid enrollees.

Although the bill passed with a simple majority, it faces a certain veto by Governor LePage, and Wednesday's Senate vote fell two votes short of what would be required for a veto override.

Senator Ed Mazurek (D-Knox County) and Senator Chris Johnson (D-Lincoln County) voted for the Medicaid expansion bill, while Senator Mike Thibodeau (R-Waldo County) voted no. At press time, late Wednesday afternoon, the bill faced further votes in the House and Senate.

Polling Local House Members on Medicaid Expansion

Of the midcoast House members polled, supporters of the amended bill include Rep. Joan Welsh (D-Rockport), Rep. Lizzie Dickerson (D-Rockland), Rep. Chuck Kruger (D-Thomaston), Rep. Erin Herbig (D-Belfast), Rep. Brian Jones (D-Freedom), Rep. Mick Devin (D-Newcastle), Rep. Tim Marks (D-Pittston), Rep. Jeff Evangelos (I-Friendship), Rep. Joe Brooks (I-Winterport), Rep. Walter Kumiega (D-Deer Isle) and Rep. Ellen Winchenbach (R-Waldoboro).

Rep. Deb Sanderson (R-Chelsea) remains staunchly opposed. Rep. James Gillway (R-Searsport) did not respond to repeated requests for comment, but he has not supported Medicaid expansion in the past.

In an email, Rep. Jethro Pease (R-Morrill), who has not supported earlier versions of Medicaid expansion, said that while he liked the idea of managed care, he was concerned about the cost. He added that because the federal government had not fulfilled previous Medicaid obligations, he was concerned that they wouldn't live up to their promise to provide 100-percent funding for the program for three years.

"Also I would want an opinion from the feds that we could opt out if they do not uphold their end," wrote Pease. "This in itself could be a game-changer for me."

However, in a memo dated December 12, 2012, the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) answered that question, stating, "A state may choose whether and when to expand, and, if a state covers the expansion group, it may decide later to drop the coverage."

Pease offered no further comment on the CMS memo.

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