Maine missed out on an extraordinary opportunity when the Legislature was unable to override the governor’s veto of an extension of Medicaid benefits to thousands of residents without basic health insurance coverage. Having already voted to pay off past accumulated hospital debt, the Legislature considered a compromise expansion proposal offered by a preeminent Republican lawmaker, Sen. Roger Katz. Under the plan, Maine would have accepted Medicaid benefits for nearly 70,000 uninsured residents for a period of three years, which would have been fully funded by the federal government at no cost to the state. At the conclusion of that time the Legislature would have reconsidered the issue of ongoing participation in an expanded program and its fiscal impact. Not surprisingly, the proposal earned broad bipartisan support and passed easily.
But not, as it turned out, by a margin wide enough to overcome a veto. In addition to the obvious health benefits to those who cannot afford coverage, the acceptance of additional Medicaid funding would have created jobs and spared our health-care system the burdens of charity care. The sustained veto is a sad and unfortunate outcome for the people of Maine, with long- term negative impact. To paraphrase Churchill, never in the history of the state could so many have benefited so much at so little cost.
Rep. Stephen W. Moriarty, District 108