By Ramona du Houx
On November 7, 2017 the people of Maine voted to expand access to Medicaid to more than 70,000 Mainers, including working moms, small business owners, people with disabilities, veterans and older Mainers, by supporting Question 2 on the statewide ballot.
“Maine voters have made it clear: They want more people to have access to health care,” said Robyn Merrill, co-chair of Mainers for Health Care!, the coalition that ran the Yes on 2 campaign. “Medicaid expansion will provide health care coverage to more than 70,000 Mainers and bring more than $500 million a year in new funding into the state, helping our hospitals and creating an estimated 6,000 jobs. Tonight is a great night for the people of Maine and our economy.”
Maine is the first state in the nation to expand the ACA with a people's referendum.
Maine's Speaker of the House Sara Gideon said, “One of the most critical pieces of this expansion is the increased access to treatment for those suffering from opioid addiction. For too long, we’ve left federal dollars on the table and Maine families have paid the price. It is now the responsibility and the duty of the governor and the legislature to fully and faithfully implement this law.”
Maine is one of 19 states whose Republican governors or legislatures have refused to expand Medicaid under Obamacare. Other holdouts like Utah and Idaho are closely watching the initiative, as newly formed committees in both those states are working to get a Medicaid expansion question on next year’s ballot. The outcome may offer clues about the salience of the issue in next year’s midterm congressional elections.
More than 66,000 Mainers signed petitions to place Question 2 on the ballot and more than 200 businesses and organizations endorsed the campaign, including the Maine Medical Association, the Maine Hospital Association, Maine Small Business Coalition, doctors, nurses and members of law enforcement.
“We are so thankful for the level of support this issues has received,” said Jennie Pirkl, the campaign manager for Yes on 2. “There are too many people and organizations who were critical to this win to list one at a time, but we particularly want to thank all the people who shared their stories about what Medicaid expansion will mean to them. Their stories and their willingness to share them have helped thousands of Mainers and have inspired us all.”
Now, attention immediately turns to implementation of Medicaid expansion.
“Starting tomorrow, we will turn our focus to the quick implementation of Medicaid expansion. There can be no more delays. More than 70,000 Mainers have waited too long for health care coverage,” said Merrill.
The Maine State Legislature has tried to pass this Afordable Care Act Medicaid expansion 6 times. But each time that it passed Gov. Paul LePage vetoed it. Now the people have spoken.
“Maine has shown the way for the rest of the country,” said Pirkl. “Voters have sent a clear message to Augusta, Washington and the rest of the country that they want more health care, not less. That they want more people to have health coverage, not fewer. Maine has shown if politicians won’t lead on health care, that voters will.”