Activist groups in Maine are suing Gov. Paul LePage, a Republican, for refusing to participate in Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion. The suit comes months after Maine became the first state in the nation to expand Medicaid via a ballot vote.
Expansion advocates claim that growing the program would enable thousands of low-income residents to gain health coverage, improving overall patient well-being.
In reality, the reform would explode the state’s budget, while providing few, if any, medical benefits to patients in return. LePage is right to protect patients from this fiscal and healthcare travesty.
Consider Oregon’s experience. In 2008, the state extended Medicaid eligibility to 6,300 uninsured patients who were selected at random.
The expansion didn’t improve patient health. According to a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, two years after the expansion, newly-enrolled patients showed “no significant improvements in measured physical health outcomes” compared with those not selected for the program.
On the contrary, Medicaid may actually be worse for patient health than having no insurance at all. According to a study from the University of Virginia, which analyzed roughly 900,000 operations from 2003 to 2007, Medicaid patients were 13 percent more likely to die post-surgery than their uninsured counterparts.
Worse still, Medicaid is as expensive as it is ineffective. Medicaid already accounts for a third of Maine’s budget. Expansion could cost Maine between $649 million and $3.16 billion over a decade, according to one estimate.
And the program is growing more expensive each year. Nationally, Medicaid costs will rise from $576 billion in 2016 to $956 by 2025, according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.
To cover these costs, Maine lawmakers will have no choice but to divert precious resources from urgent state priorities like education, infrastructure, and transportation.
Medicaid may have garnered public support at the ballot box last November. But the reality of expansion will be anything but popular. Instead of suing LePage for refusing to consent to fiscal suicide, Mainers should be thanking him.