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Thursday, April 28, 2016 Serving Maine and Lincoln County for over a century. Volume 141 Issue 17

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home : letters : letters to the editor April 28, 2016

3/12/2014 2:00:00 PM
A Simple Question

To the Editor:

There are several statements being made about the expansion of Medicaid that can be discussed from a number of viewpoints. The idea that expansion is free due to federal money is incorrect.

The assumption is that the federal government will pay 100 percent of the costs for the first three years, then 90 percent from that point on. For a moment, disregard the fact that this is not guaranteed money.

Given the number of changes to Obamacare that have been made by executive order, what is to keep a future president or Congress from saying, "Oops-sorry we can't spare the money. Good luck, and thanks."

The history of mandated programs with "free" money being thrown back on the state or localities is probably not pleasant to look at.

Even if, against all odds, we were to miraculously receive 100 percent "free money," there is still the issue of administrative costs. It has been estimated that the state will need to hire 93 new staffers at a cost to the taxpayers of $7 million per biennium. Once we get to 90 percent, the numbers are even worse.

DHHS has estimated that expansion of Medicaid will cost the General Fund $70 million in fiscal years 2016 to '17, $102 million in fiscal years 2018 to '19, $150 million in '20 to '21, and $75 million each year thereafter at 90 percent matching. That totals $400 million in seven years after the "free" three year period. Where will that money come from?

These numbers also assume that enrollment numbers are accurate. Charitable people may say this is unlikely, given past results. We also have to expand coverage back to parents at 100 to 133 percent of the federal poverty level. The estimated cost there is expected to be $18 million.

A simple question to those who are in favor of expansion:

Where do you plan to get the money? What taxes will you raise, or what will you cut, understanding that DHHS and education already use more than 80 percent of the state's budget? How will we pay for this, and worse, what if the federal money goes away?

Steve Maclachlan

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