Maine voters have important decisions to make this fall election season. One of the referendums on the November 7 ballot will ask Mainers whether they want to expand Medicaid to provide health care coverage for populations of low-income residents under 65 years old. Proponents of the expansion estimate it would make at least 70,000 Mainers eligible for coverage.
States one-by-one decide whether to expand Medicaid, a joint federal and state program that provides essential health care to millions of low-income individuals. As it stands now, 31 states and Washington, D.C. have expanded Medicaid to individuals and families with incomes less than 138 percent of the Federal Poverty Line (FPL). Maine is the only state in New England to not expand Medicaid.
"Medicaid expansion would provide health coverage to more than 70,000 Mainers. It will create more jobs…strengthen our hospitals and clinics."
Mainers For Health Care, a campaign focused on "ensuring Maine families have access to quality, affordable health care," is leading the effort to gain support for the expansion. The campaign, with assistance from its coalition of organizations, and its steering committee including, the Maine's People Alliance, has collected more than 66,000 signatures.
David Farmer, a spokesperson for Mainers For Health Care, said Medicaid expansion's bipartisan nationwide support proves it's a system that represents what Americans want.
"The most important thing to understand is what Medicaid expansion will do," Farmer told VICE Impact. "Medicaid expansion would provide health coverage to more than 70,000 Mainers. It will create more jobs…strengthen our hospitals and clinics." He continued, "Thirty one states and D.C. have already expanded Medicaid. Those are states led by Democrats and Republicans. This will confirm what we already know, Americans want more and better access to health care that's more affordable."
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The Maine Small Business Coalition recently announced that at least 150 Maine small business owners have expressed support to vote "Yes" on Question 2. Will Ikard, the director of the Maine Small Business Coalition, told VICE Impact the support for Medicaid expansion from small business owners continues to grow everyday.
"There are three core reasons why we support this referendum," Ikard said. "First and foremost it's just the right thing to do. When struggling Mainers who can't afford health care have access to affordable health care, it makes everything in our society better."
Ikard also added that the expansion of Medicaid would allow more productivity in the workforce, and would have positive economic returns for the State.
"When struggling Mainers who can't afford health care have access to affordable health care, it makes everything in our society better."
Proponents of Medicaid expansion in Maine argue the expansion would help the economy by bringing $500 million of federal funding to the state each year, which they argue would boost creation of jobs, among other advantages.
But Maine Gov. Paul LePage (R), a strong opponent of Medicaid expansion who referred to it as "welfare" in an interview with radio station WGAN, has successfully vetoed the Maine Legislature to expand Medicaid, called MaineCare, five times.
The leading opposition to Question 2, the Welfare to Work Political Action Committee, argues Medicaid expansion would drive up taxes, make it difficult for some Mainers with disabilities to receive care, and would be a detriment to the State's budget.
Welfare to Work Political Action Committee declined to comment to VICE Impact on its opposition to Question 2.
But proponents of Question 2 point out that the state would be matched with federal funds for the expansion at a 90 percent rate. Ikard told VICE Impact that he believes it's "a good deal," considering 70,000 more Mainers could receive health care.
"I would just say that we have already paid an incredible amount of tax money into the federal government and we should be getting something back," Ikard said. "If we can get anything of value, especially something so beneficial to our communities… at 10 percent or less than the cost, that's just a good deal."
You can read the exact phrasing for Question 2 on the November 7 ballot.
If you live in Maine, there isn't a cut-off for voter registration if you plan to vote in person, which means you can register to vote on election day . However, if you wish to register to vote by mail or through a voter drive your registration application must be completed at least 21-days prior to an election .
No matter which candidate you support, if you're not already registered there's still time to make sure your voice is heard in the upcoming referendum on November 7, and other local elections across the country. Register online or use the widget below to register to vote today, and chances are there is a race coming up in your state.
VICE Impact also is committed to getting more people registered leading up to the 2018 midterm elections. We are working with Democracy Works' TurboVote challenge, a leading digital voter registration initiative, and grassroots organizations across the country to increase voter registration and turnout in the United States.