The dependency agenda behind Medicaid expansion

Quick, try some heroin for three months, then make a decision about whether you want to keep using it.

OK, don’t go do that, but the logic that would inherently justify such a stupid experiment is exactly what is behind the proposal by House Speaker Mark Eves to “try out” Medicaid expansion for three years with a sunset provision, so that the state could supposedly evaluate whether it is worth it.

Is there anyone alive, Republican or Democrat, who doesn’t see through this proposal?

Said Eves about the sunset provision, which, in case you are keeping track is not new and was on last year’s version of this bill: “After three years, prior to the decline in federal funding going to 90 percent, the Legislature would have to take a proactive step, and the good news is we’d have the experience of those three years to help make that decision.”


What experience would that be? The state paying “nothing” for the expansion? Seeing more people dependent on the government plan? What exactly is Eves proposing that we can learn from the federal government’s little bait and switch?

The reality is, Eves and his Democratic allies care about nothing more than putting the additional people on a government-funded insurance program.

They know that once these people are on it, any future attempt to take them off the program if it proves to be inefficient can be demonized as cold, heartless, inhumane and indicative of the Republican Party’s hatred of the poor.

The sunset provision seeks only to get people addicted to government dependency, because they know it will be almost impossible to break that dependency later. At the very least, Democrats will have bought themselves some great talking points in future elections to use against Republicans.

Just look at how difficult it was to make any reforms to the delivery of MaineCare — the state’s name for Medicaid — in the middle of an economic malaise, with a unified Republican governor and Republican Legislature following the 2010 election.

The system was bloated, and changes to it were desperately needed for the future health and stability of the state budget.  And yet when Gov. Paul LePage proposed changes, the left sprung into action to attack the governor and his party with as much vitriol as possible over the issue.

Point is, once you create a large-scale government entitlement program, or expand it, there are virtually no examples of it ever being ended, or significantly curtailed.

Eves knows this, and so do his friends in the Legislature. That is why they are even interested in “compromising” in the first place. They know their supposed compromise means nothing and that it will give them what they want in the end: more people on a government-run insurance plan.

This is all despite the fact that a huge number of these people are already eligible to receive private insurance at a drastically reduced cost. Despite the fact that these people make up to 138 percent of the poverty line. Despite the fact that these are all able-bodied adults.

And all of it is despite the fact that this expansion would undermine those on the waitlists and set the state up with yet another overly generous and unsustainable entitlement program.

This is a program, I will remind you, that is almost entirely responsible for the state hospital debt that was recently dealt with and paid by the LePage administration and accrued due to already covering so many people that the state was unable to reimburse the hospitals.

A program that helped to contribute to the recently announced $119 million shortfall in the Maine budget.

And no matter what the left tells you about the expansion costing the state of Maine nothing, that is not and never will be true.

During the “free” portion of the program, there will be administrative costs to deal with. More importantly, though, the 100 percent reimbursement from the federal government will dip to 95 percent in fiscal year 2017, which will lead to an estimated $5.2 million in net costs.

Then, as the matching rate drops further to 90 percent by fiscal year 2020, that cost will only go higher.

When you begin considering the annual cost of re-expanding to 15,000 parents at the standard reimbursement rate (61.5 percent) and project more realistic assumptions about enrollment, the state suddenly looks to be on the hook for $40 million per year.

None of this matters to the Democrats, as they never care about whether or not Maine can afford anything. They are the ones who created the mess that the state is just now emerging from.

All they care about is finding some way, any way, to create more government dependency. Don’t be fooled by this, their latest trick.

Matthew Gagnon

About Matthew Gagnon

Matthew Gagnon, of Yarmouth, is the Chief Executive Officer of the Maine Heritage Policy Center, a free market policy think tank based in Portland. Prior to Maine Heritage, he served as a senior strategist for the Republican Governors Association in Washington, D.C. Originally from Hampden, he has been involved with Maine politics for more than a decade.