Opposing Medicaid expansion is not a conservative position

Gov. Paul LePage’s opposition to Medicaid expansion is one of the most destructive acts of his tenure in office — denying healthcare to 70,000 low-income Mainers purely out of spite. And it’s predicated on a series of logical fallacies that should make his allegedly conservative followers cringe with embarrassment.

Here’s the most obvious one: If you spend $54 million in order to get $500 million, it’s not “costing” you anything. It’s a $446 million net gain. Those are roughly the terms of Medicaid expansion: The federal government will give Maine more than $500 million a year in funding for healthcare for low-income Mainers if we contribute $54 million to the same cause.

This nearly 10-to-one return is the deal our alleged businessman governor is opposing.

It is not fiscally conservative to deny hundreds of millions of dollars in federal funding because we will need a 10 percent match. It’s fiscally ludicrous.

Anyone able to do basic elementary school math should be able to understand this. It’s why Republican governors in other states — including Vice President Mike Pence when he was governor of Indiana — have already accepted expansion. In total, 31 other states and the District of Columbia have expanded Medicaid.

Gov. Paul LePage met with Vice President Mike Pence to push for an Obamacare repeal. White House photo

Maine accepts federal matches on all kinds of things — roads, bridges, first responder funding, to name a few — much of it with far less favorable terms than what the Affordable Care Act (ACA) provides for Medicaid expansion. Additionally, many of our biggest employers rely almost entirely on federal funding — companies like Bath Iron Works, for example.

Can you imagine BIW turning down a shipbuilding contract for the US Navy that would profit them a billion dollars because they’d have to spend $140 million in infrastructure upgrades to be able to build it?

Speaking of BIW, there’s another massive logical flaw coming from LePage’s camp. They claim $500 million a year in federal health care funding won’t have a positive impact on Maine’s economy. (Seriously, they are saying this.)

If you are one of the people who thinks $500 million a year in new economic activity won’t have a positive impact on our state, consider this: BIW’s entire annual payroll is $400 million.  

In fact, expanding Medicaid would be a lot like opening another BIW in Maine — a federally funded job machine supporting 6,000 skilled workers and swirling hundreds of millions of new dollars into Maine’s economy.

Still not convinced? Consider this: Maine’s entire lobster industry revenue is $533 million.

But LePage and company say $500 million won’t help our economy.

Another major logical flaw in Medicaid expansion opposition hits at the heart of the GOP’s anti-ACA sentiment. Republicans dislike Obamacare for one simple reason: it makes insurance more expensive. So how then can you oppose a program that makes it less expensive for people to get insurance?

The proposed expansion of Medicaid would give health insurance to people making up to 138 percent of the poverty level. This means a couple things. First, it means the recipients are working — otherwise they’d have no income. It also means these people are the ones at ground zero of America’s healthcare crisis. They’re working, they aren’t making much, and they can’t afford health insurance.

Aren’t these the exact people Republicans claim to care about when they decry the impacts of Obamacare?

If lowering the cost of health insurance is not the primary goal of the anti-Obamacare crowd, what is?

The bottom line is Team LePage doesn’t care about the fiscal impact of Medicaid expansion. They simply care that it’s a Democratic program, and it helps poor people. LePage Republicans have such a blind tribal rage that it doesn’t matter if it’s a good deal for Maine’s economy or not, or that it helps mitigate the core problem with Obamacare — prohibitively expensive health insurance.

They simply want to wreck another social service program because that’s what they do.

LePage has put Maine in the absurd position of shouldering all the negative market impacts of Obamacare without receiving any of the positive benefits meant to offset them. It’s clear by now that he is not a fiscal conservative, and that his sycophant followers aren’t either. They are angry populists whose causes border at times on anarchy. They will oppose things simply for the destructive impact of their opposition.

And standing in the way of federal money meant to provide health insurance for tens of thousands of working low-income Mainers simply out of spite is pretty darn destructive.

Fortunately, LePage and his lackeys don’t get to make the decision this time.

On Nov. 7, voters can finally right this ridiculous wrong by voting yes on Question 2.


Lance Dutson

About Lance Dutson

Lance Dutson, a principal of Red Hill Strategies, is a Republican communications consultant. He has served on the campaign teams of U.S. Sens. Susan Collins and Kelly Ayotte, as well as the Maine Republican Party.