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Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Maine's Ballot Initiative to Expand Medicaid

Sophia Tripoli

State Campaigns Manager

A critical test of the popularity of the Affordable Care Act will take place in less than two weeks. On Nov. 7, voters in Maine will cast a vote on Question 2, a ballot initiative to expand Medicaid. The election will determine whether efforts to expand Mainers' access to health care that have been stymied by the state’s governor can be won at the ballot box.

Mainers urged to vote "yes" on Question 2 on Nov. 7 

Mainers for Health Care, a coalition of health care advocates and progressives, hopes a victory on Question 2 will pave the way for 70,000 to 80,000 Mainers to finally get the access to health care offered by the Affordable Care Act. Despite Maine’s legislature passing legislation to expand the state’s Medicaid program with bipartisan majorities five times, Maine Governor Paul Le Page has vetoed the legislation each time. Maine remains the only state in New England that has not expanded Medicaid. 

A win for the ballot initiative may encourage other states to consider pursuing a similar option--either through referendums or legislative action. It will also keep pressure on Maine’s lawmakers to preserve the protections of the ACA and Medicaid when repeal-and-replace measures come before Congress.

Turnout will be key to winning in an off-cycle election year. Also on the ballot will be a special election for State Representative and three other citizen initiatives. Mainers for Health Care is hoping a strong get-out-the-vote effort by volunteers and supporters will overcome the usual smaller turnout that occurs in off-cycle elections.

How Maine would benefit from Medicaid expansion 

Passing Question 2 of the 2017 citizen’s initiative would expand Medicaid coverage to 70,000 to 80,000 low-income Mainers, many of whom are not eligible for assistance to buy insurance from the health insurance marketplace. Without Medicaid expansion, these residents have no option for affordable health insurance. 

The effort would also bring in an estimated $525 million in new federal funds each year providing a significant boost to Maine’s economy by creating over 3,000 new jobs, save the state over $27 million in funds. 

A broad range of groups support Medicaid expansion

The coalition of organizations that make up Mainers for Health Care includes a range of small business, senior, health care and community groups including Maine Equal Justice Project, Maine People’s Alliance, Planned Parenthood Maine Action Fund, Maine Center for Economic Policy, Maine Votes, the Fairness Project, AARP Maine, and more than 60 other organizations. 

The Maine referendum comes as Congress has made repeated attempts to sabotage the Affordable Care Act, all designed to significantly cut federal Medicaid spending and undermine the insurance marketplace. While repeal efforts have been stopped, a win in Maine would send a message of popular support for the ACA to the state’s lawmakers and members of Congress prior to the 2018 congressional election cycle.