By Christopher Cousins
Mainers will vote in November on whether the state should expand its Medicaid program, following the validation Tuesday of a petition to do so.
Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap announced Tuesday that proponents of the measure submitted more than 66,000 verified signatures from registered Maine voters, which is enough to top the threshold of 61,123 for access to the statewide ballot.
The citizen-initiated bill, An Act to Enhance Access to Affordable Health Care, seeks for Maine to provide Medicaid services through MaineCare to qualifying people younger than 65 years old, whose income is below 133 percent plus 5 percent of the nonfarm income official poverty line.
That arrangement would be under the authority of the federal Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, which would reimburse the state for 90 percent of the cost of the expansion. However, with the election of Donald Trump and a Republican congressional caucus voicing determination to repeal and replace the health care law, its future is uncertain.
The Maine Legislature has considered numerous bills in recent years aimed at expanding Medicaid but all have either failed on their own merits or failed to gain enough support to survive six vetoes by Republican Gov. Paul LePage, who says Medicaid expansion would be ruinous for Maine's state budget.
The organizations behind the referendum said they collected the bulk of their signatures on Election Day in November 2016.
The referendum now goes to the Maine Legislature, which can either pass it into law without amendments or alterations or send it to voters on the November 2017 statewide ballot. A ballot question asking voters to approve creation of a casino in York County -- which would be Maine's third casino -- previously qualified for the November ballot.
As of the beginning of 2017, a total of 31 states and the District of Columbia had adopted some form of Medicaid expansion, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.
(c)2017 the Bangor Daily News (Bangor, Maine)