Earlier this session, I introduced legislation to pay for the administrative costs of expanding MaineCare to comply with current law. Long an opponent of this action, Governor LePage had claimed that he would expand MaineCare if the legislature would only provide him with the resources to do so. This bill did precisely that, and ultimately was vetoed, when the Governor came up with different reasons to oppose expansion. Some of my testimony in introducing the bill appears below:
"The merits of Medicaid Expansion have been fully debated in Maine, and around the country, where 33 states, including the district of Columbia and Maine have now adopted it. Here, 58 percent of the voters supported this measure. The question has moved from one of should we expand, to one of how does the legislature support implementation. The purpose of this bill, which I filed initially as a supplemental budget shell bill back in 2016, is simply to provide funding for the technology upgrades and 103 staff and that DHHS needs to begin taking applications on July 2, 2018 as required by law. This amendment is based on the positions and cost levels that were outlined by DHHS in their memo to us in January.
But even beyond this clear legal requirement, there is real urgency to work quickly and collaboratively to pass this legislation, that will make care available to Maine people who need it beginning on July 2nd—just over two months away. At that time, Mainers with diabetes, or heart disease, or mental health conditions will be standing in line to apply for the care they are eligible for. DHHS needs the resources to do its work.
On July 2nd we will also finally have the chance to deliver long needed relief to our hospitals that accrue thousands of dollars in debt daily by providing the charity care needed to carry out their missions to maintain and improve the health of their communities. And on July 2nd we can begin to scale back the costs passed on to Maine people who have been watching their own health insurance rates rise as the cost of caring for tens of thousands of uninsured people has been passed on to them.
I appreciate having the opportunity to introduce this bill hope we can work together to pass this bill as the quickest and most efficient way to address these urgent startup needs and to get this program underway."