How to destroy Maine's economy, 2.0

By Paul Ackerman | Oct 05, 2017

What can you say about a lobbying group, primarily from outside Maine, that so far has raised more than $196,000 and spent in excess of $124,000 pushing for a “yes” vote Nov. 7 on Ballot Question 2 to expand Medicaid in Maine?

The local opposition “group”? They’ve raised and spent $229.

I kid you not. Two hundred twenty-nine dollars. That is what the figures showed as of Sept. 24, according to

So this must be a no-brainer, right? If the intelligentsia from all the leftist organizations in Maine and Washington, D.C., can outspend any local Maine opposition at a ratio of 500 to 1, of course there must be something to this.

There is, but it is far from a freebie (paid for by Uncle Sam, not us) and not something voters should be misled by with the sappy and disingenuous ad campaigns being run promoting this question.

The fact that the money pouring into Maine to buy the voters is from the same organizations that continue to push unsustainable increases in minimum-wage laws in many states ought to tell you something. It is a great example of why these “voter referendums” should be seriously curtailed in the future. Having the Maine People’s Alliance register nine people to collect signatures to put this on the ballot as a referendum question does not come close to the even minimal amount of debate that might have taken place within the Legislature on such an issue.

Maine has been here before, in a manner of speaking. To the brink of total insolvency largely due to the previous expansion of Medicaid/Mainecare back in 2002 under then Gov. Angus King. The pie-in-the-sky figure then was that perhaps as many as 11,000 Mainers would be added to the rolls. That figure quickly vanished, as within 14 months there were 17,000 added to Medicaid. Many of these individuals were believed to have dropped their previous insurance to take advantage of this “freebie” in switching to Medicaid/Maincare, which was predictable and ignored by the proponents then, as it is now.

What about the claims that the uninsured rate in Maine would decline with expansion? Untrue, the uninsured rate of around 12 percent remained the same from 2002 thru 2010.

The claim that uncompensated care at Maine hospitals would decline after expanding Medicaid? Untrue. In 2002, that figure was more than $50 million, and by 2012 it had surpassed $200 million. Ultimately, the debt to Maine hospitals totaled more than $500 million, and was only resolved when Gov. Paul LePage pushed to repay this by renegotiating the state liquor contracts, as reported in an an Aug. 10 story by Jacob Posik on the Maine Wire website.

The costs of the 2002 (and onward) Medicaid expansion in Maine spiraled out of control, and the suggestion today by proponents of Yes on 2 that magically this will not happen again have the same hollow ring as before.

It is unjustifiable that they are intentionally ignoring (or denying) the results in other states that opted to expand Medicaid under the ACA, such as West Virginia or Ohio, where the state-borne costs to the taxpayers have just skyrocketed.

West Virginia has had about 25 percent in cost increases for its Medicaid expansion since 2012. Here are the numbers, as reported in January on The Intelligencer, Wheeling News-Register website:

2012: $809.7 million; 2013: $901.2 million; 2014: $932 million; 2015: $961 million; 2016: $985.9 million.

Though proponents of expansion also claim that preventing expansion would somehow exacerbate the opioid abuse epidemic, claiming lack of funding for treatment, etc, there is recent compelling data demonstrating that Medicaid expansion in many states has a causative relationship to opioid abuse, and by extension, overdose deaths.

Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicate that overdose deaths (averaged between 2013 and 2015) rose twice as much in expansion states versus those states that did not expand Medicaid. This aspect is startling. Between 2013 and 2015, overdose deaths showed a 205 percent increase in North Dakota, which expanded Medicaid (with a booming economy), versus an 18 percent increase in South Dakota, whicht did not go for expansion.

Additionally, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality records that opioid-connected hospital admission costs that were covered by Medicaid between 2012 and 2014 increased nationwide by almost 40 percent, four times the rate of growth in Medicaid enrollment in the same period. On the other hand, private insurance-covered hospital admissions for opioid-related cases increased only 4 percent during this time period, as noted in an opinion piece from Sept. 24 by Allysia Finley on the Wall Street Journal website.

Maine cannot afford to buy into this same false promise of “Oh, the federal government will cover most of the costs … for a few years, and it will all work out.” That is bunk, pure and simple, and there are many states around the country where Medicaid expansion costs crisis can attest to that. By 2020, Maine could have another $200+ million-dollar hospital debt, and climbing.

I find the commonsense of West Virginia Senate Majority Leader Ryan Ferns much more realistic than the starry-eyed missives of proponents here in Maine,

“Now you’ve got all these people who are supposedly insured who have deductibles they can’t afford. ... They have an insurance card, but do they have access to health care? In my view, they certainly don’t,”

All the same malarkey is being trotted out again in Maine by organizations that also pushed the Affordable Care Act as the health care Holy Grail. Remember those assertions? If you like your plan, you can keep your plan … if you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor, and every family should save $2,500 a year in premium costs. Yes, all of them untrue, and they knew it.

Comments (5)
Posted by: Ronald Horvath | Oct 11, 2017 06:23

Poll: Most Americans want to replace Obamacare with single-payer — including many Republicans

"Well over half of Americans want to replace Obamacare with a single-payer system. That figure, amazingly, includes 41 percent of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents — even though the wording of the question specifies that the program would be "federally funded." (Mind you, more than half of Republicans oppose the idea.)

The high number of Republicans approving of the idea may be because Republicans are so hostile to the Affordable Care Act. Gallup's polling has consistently shown that Republicans hold strongly negative views of the program. Replacing the ACA with anything probably holds some appeal.

Nearly 8 in 10 Democrats want to keep the ACA in place; just under three-quarters want to replace it with single-payer. (Only 16 percent of Republicans want to keep the ACA, which is why single-payer gets the highest support overall.) It's not that simple, though. Fifty-nine percent of Democrats support the idea of both keeping the ACA and replacing it with a single-payer program. Asked to pick between the two, though, that group favors single-payer by a 2-to-1 margin."

Posted by: Holly Ann Tracy | Oct 10, 2017 16:07

Paul, I think you just made the case for us to go with a Medicare for All, redirecting funds that insurance companies funnel off the top and funding actual care. 

Posted by: John L Hart | Oct 08, 2017 11:13

Maine is a poor state relatively and financially speaking. I believe that our state will benefit financially whenever there is a source of capital that will be spent in state and remain in our instate banking system. Yes, federal gov't Medicaid spending meets this criteria.

Also, you are a quick complainer with no good solution offered. Without proper healthcare protection/insurance what will prevent Maine hospitals and healthcare providers from running up another huge deficit balance? Do you think that we can renegotiate the liquor contracts again in order to fund un-paid medical bills ?

So again, what solutions do you offer. We have way too many complainers in America and not enough people who are willing to use their minds in a constructive manner to figure out real objective and fair solutions to real issues. They would rather provide more rhetoric about problems we already know about but offer not a sincere solution.

Posted by: Seth Hall | Oct 07, 2017 18:48

Here again we have a lot of malarkey from a Conservative Republican who doesn't believe that there are tens of thousands of people in Maine who actually need, and deserve, help with their medical coverage. Mr. Ackerman is the type of fellow who you really wouldn't want to rely on i a public crisis. Come on... an increase in the addiction rate caused by Medicaid expansion? What exactly is this guy smoking??

Posted by: Mary A McKeever | Oct 06, 2017 17:57

If  these assertions are right, this is indeed a sad commentary.

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