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A wrong turn in Maine

Governor blocks Medicaid expansion

Maine Governor Paul LePage is doing his state a disservice with his refusal to accept new Medicaid dollars available under the Affordable Care Act for expanding health care for lower-income people.

In the aftermath of President Obama’s reelection, more practical conservatives have shelved the partisan rhetoric and decided to embrace the generous deal that Obamacare offers states. But not in Maine. There, LePage hasn’t just rejected the new Medicaid dollars; he’s also trying to cut thousands of people from the Medicaid rolls, reversing a past effort by Maine policymakers to expand coverage.

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LePage’s action is in sharp contrast to the decisions of high-profile Republican governors like Rick Scott of Florida, Chris Christie of New Jersey, John Kasich of Ohio, and Rick Snyder of Michigan, all of whom have decided to opt into the Medicaid expansion. Even Jan Brewer, Arizona’s gadfly governor, has come to realize that, since the federal government will pay 100 percent of those new Medicaid dollars for the first three years and 90 percent of the cost thereafter, it would be foolish to say no.

LePage’s action isn’t surprising, given his history. He is, after all, the man who last year labeled the IRS “the new Gestapo.” But it does show just how out of sync he is with the more moderate sensibility of his state, where, polling shows, voters solidly support Obamacare, rejecting the idea that it should be repealed by 55 percent to 39 percent.

That means the universal health care law is more popular than LePage. He won election in 2010 by garnering 38 percent of the vote in a multi-candidate field. In a recent poll, only 39 percent approved of the job he’s doing, while 55 percent disapproved.

Nonetheless, because of LePage’s action, Maine will miss the chance, at least for now, to expand health care coverage to as many as 44,000 more people. That’s something Mainers should remember if and when LePage seeks reelection next year.

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