To the Editor:
For seven years, I have been leading the charge to change the status quo in Augusta. But the legislature won’t make the tough decisions that are needed to move Maine from poverty to prosperity.
This opens the door for socialists to push their agenda through the ballot box. These citizen referendums punish success, encourage professionals to leave Maine and burden our taxpayers with runaway costs.
In the last round of referendums, the socialists at the Maine People’s Alliance tried to tax successful people and hurt small family businesses. They also tried to take away tips from servers in restaurants.
Now they want Maine taxpayers to give free health care to able-bodied people who should be working and contributing to the cost of their own health care. In Question 2, these socialists are trying to expand Medicaid again.
Medicaid is a $2.65 billion program that accounts for more than one third of all state spending and nearly one quarter of Maine’s General Fund.
Before I became governor, massive Medicaid shortfalls derailed the state budget every year. But my administration eliminated those shortfalls and put Medicaid back on sound financial footing.
We removed most able-bodied adults from the Medicaid rolls and encouraged them to work and contribute to the cost of their health care. If they have a job, they can qualify for insurance on the exchange or get insurance through their employer.
Expanding Medicaid to give them “free” health care removes this incentive to work. As I always say, “free” is very expensive to somebody. Maine learned this the hard way when it expanded Medicaid in 2002 under then-Governor King.
Medicaid expansion did not decrease the number of uninsured Mainers. It did not reduce emergency room utilization. Instead, it nearly destroyed the state budget and created a $750 million debt to our hospitals.
To pay for this “free” health care, Maine took money away from our nursing homes, and it put vulnerable people on waitlists for services they need.
My administration finally paid off the hospitals, and we fixed our Medicaid system — without raising taxes. This time around, Medicaid expansion will cost Maine taxpayers an additional $500 million over the next five years. Once again, it will create massive budget shortfalls every year.
Maine should not expand Medicaid for adults who are capable of working. We should continue to direct our limited resources toward the truly needy: the elderly, low-income people and those with intellectual and physical disabilities.
We must stay on our fiscally responsible path. We cannot let socialists use big money from out of state to reverse all of the progress we have made.
Before you vote in November, please educate yourself about the disastrous effects Medicaid expansion will have on Maine.
Editor’s note: This is the text of Gov. LePage’s weekly radio address, delivered Oct. 11.
Paul R. LePage
Governor of Maine