During last November's elections, the people of Maine voted to expand Medicaid in their state, but in their governor they have a determined adversary.
Governor Paul LePage, who has consistently spoken out against the expansion and vetoed five legislative attempts at expansion, has long been opposed to social safety net programs and isn't likely to change his mind now.
For many, this would mean greater access to physicians and services like opioid addiction treatment and cheaper prescription drugs. Under ACA guidelines, Medicaid expansion now covers people who earn up to 138 percent of the poverty line. That means individual Maine residents who earn up to $16,642 or a family of four earning up to $24,600 would qualify.
But LePage is a strident believer in hard work and pulling oneself up by the bootstraps, in no small part due to his own life experience. PBS notes that the governor was one of 18 children, homeless at the age of 11, and still managed to work his way to the state capital.
“We’re asking hardworking Maine families to pick up the extra tab for people who should be working, but elect not to,” LePage said. “People have to provide, have to contribute to the well-being of not only their household, but society as a whole. If you choose not to participate, then I don’t think it’s government’s responsibility to pick up the tab.”
Though the people's vote is veto-proof, both the governor and Republican-controlled legislature could change the language and scope of the final legislation. And if LePage can whittle it down to something he finds more palatable, he is sure to try.
“I don’t believe for one minute that health care is a right,” LePage told PBS NewsHour special correspondent Sarah Varney. “In my lifetime, I’ve made health care a priority for myself and my family.”