LEWISTON, Maine — Louis Bourgoin seems an unlikely symbol of the latest battle over health care spending. The 68-year-old retired shipyard worker is undergoing chemotherapy for liver cancer. He lives in a state once renowned for its efforts to insure the poor, and Mainers stood to benefit even more under President Obama’s health care plan.
Then the letter from the administration of Governor Paul LePage arrived. Bourgoin and his wife were told last month they were about to lose thousands of dollars in annual Medicaid benefits starting in March.
“It’s going to hurt,” Bourgoin said, looking across the spartan living room at his wife. “The government doesn’t care. It means we’re just going to not eat very much.”
By the end of the year, more than 44,000 Mainers — seniors, the disabled, parents, and childless adults — will be dropped from the government-subsidized health insurance program. They represent roughly 13 percent of the state’s Medicaid population, and include the very group that national health reform sought to insure through the Medicaid expansion the Supreme Court has deemed optional.
LePage, meanwhile, seems an unlikely politician to wield such power. The oldest son of 18 children, he ran away from home at age 11, lived on the streets of this once-thriving mill town, and eventually was elected as a Tea Party-backed candidate in 2010.
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