AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) — The Maine House on Monday approved a bill to expand the state’s Medicaid program to include roughly 70,000 more people.
The bill would tap federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) Medicaid expansion funding.
Representatives voted 89-51 for the bill Monday, adding changes aimed at mitigating worries of Republicans who’ve opposed expansion in past votes. The amended version says the state can opt out of the Medicaid expansion if the federal government fails to live up to its promises to cover most of the cost of the added Medicaid spending. The bill faces a Senate vote as early as Tuesday.
Last week, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) confirmed it will pay 100 percent of the cost of expansion for the three calendar years starting in 2014, reaching 90 percent in 2020. But minority Republicans have remained concerned about potential expense to the state despite government promises, saying it will cost $400 million in Maine taxpayers’ money in the seven years after the first three-year full-coverage period.
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Republicans also say expansion will not help 3,100 seriously disabled Mainers who are on waiting list for Medicaid services. Medicaid is administered as MaineCare in the state.
Rep. Richard Malaby, R-Hancock, told lawmakers during Monday’s debate that a health care exchange, to be in service this October as part of PPACA, will offer low-cost health care coverage opportunities for those who would otherwise be covered through the expansion. Malaby described MaineCare as a “financially failed program” and said it makes no sense to expand it “with all of its inherent risks.”
But supporters of expansion said it will fill a large gap in the number of Mainers who get health coverage.