LePage’s confusing exchange on Medicaid expansion

Good morning from Augusta, where today’s round-up starts with a confusing exchange on Medicaid expansion between Gov. Paul LePage and a caller on MPBN’s “Maine Calling” on Monday.

The main point of confusion seemed to be around existing eligibility for childless adults under Medicaid, the federal-state health care program for low-income people.

Maine is one of 19 states that hasn’t expanded Medicaid for under the federal Affordable Care Act. This expansion was a main part of the health care law passed in 2010, but a later Supreme Court decision made expansion optional for states and LePage has vetoed it five times, citing cost.

One of his biggest gripes with expansion has been that it would cover an estimated 55,000 childless adults. His administration has pushed other changes that cut Medicaid to 14,500 parents and approximately 10,000 childless adults at 2013’s end.

In Maine and other states that haven’t expanded, childless adults making less than 100 percent of the federal poverty mark of roughly $12,000 fall into a gap in the law, not qualifying for Medicaid or subsidized insurance under the Affordable Care Act reserved for people making between 100 percent and 400 percent of the poverty level.

Moderator Jennifer Rooks vaguely pressed LePage on that gap, after which he said that expansion wouldn’t help that population. It led into an exchange with a caller who seemed to be a childless adult who said she didn’t qualify for Medicaid.

“If you’re disabled or pregnant, you can get Medicaid in Maine but otherwise, you cannot,” the caller said.

“That’s not true,” LePage replied.

But it is, for the most part. Maine covers pregnant women under Medicaid at up to 209 percent of the federal poverty level and children are also covered, while people with disabilities can get Social Security benefits. Childless adults otherwise aren’t covered, which LePage acknowledges at the end of the exchange with the caller.

Erika Ziller, a professor who focuses on health care at the University of Southern Maine’s Muskie School of Public Service, said LePage “appears to be mistaken on several points” in the interview.

That included the exchange about childless adults and a claim that Maine wouldn’t qualify for the same match for expansion that the federal government is offering other states — 100 percent of costs for the first three years and 90 percent later.

This is true for one expansion segment — parents between 100 percent and 138 percent of the poverty level would only qualify for a 62 percent match because Maine expanded Medicaid in the early 2000s.

Department of Health and Human Services spokeswoman Samantha Edwards said LePage was “absolutely correct” on that population. However, Maine would get the higher rate on childless adults, as was outlined in a 2014 letter from the Obama administration.

Ziller said “it’s not clear” exactly what Maine’s match would like because of past expansions and delayed expansion, but “if Maine were seriously considering expansion then we could negotiate some of these points.”

“The federal government has shown a willingness to be flexible with states — we just haven’t tried,” she said. — Michael Shepherd

Maine GOP hits McCabe for post outing (alleged) litterer

A top legislative Democrat was criticized by the Maine Republican Party on Monday for a Facebook post containing personal information of a woman whose trash he found on the ground near his home.

House Majority Leader Jeff McCabe, D-Skowhegan, posted a picture of a hospital bracelet with the name of a Skowhegan woman, her phone number, her age and her doctor, telling anyone who sees her to “tell her no littering on Malbons Mills Rd.”

In a statement, the Maine Republican Party said McCabe endangered her, leaving her vulnerable to “burglars seeking prescription medication, to scammers or potential individuals seeking to do her harm.” McCabe is running a crucial 2016 race against incumbent state Sen. Rodney Whittemore, R-Skowhegan.

The woman, who the Bangor Daily News isn’t identifying, said she left the bracelet on the dashboard of her vehicle with the window open and it blew out. She seemed less upset about the disclosure of her information than about her reputation.

“It upsets me that he’d put that out there because I don’t throw things out the window,” she said of McCabe, who called her to discuss it.

Reached while he was at Home Depot buying a trash picker, McCabe, who works for the Northern Forest Canoe Trail as an outreach coordinator, said he spends a lot of his free time picking up trash around his home, a rental property of his and at natural sites and said litter has “only increased.”

He posted another littered receipt with a phone number on Monday, and he said he’s done it to draw attention to the problem.

“I’m a pretty honest guy and I don’t sugarcoat things,” he said. “You throw your trash on the ground, you know, I’m probably going to call you on it.” — Michael Shepherd

Quick hits

  • LePage will be in Bangor for his next town hall meeting on Wednesday, which will be at the William S. Cohen School on Garland Street from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m.
  • If you want to change your party to vote in Maine’s primary election on June 14, you’ve got to do so by May 27 in most places, according to Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap’s office. Unenrolled voters can enroll in a party up until Election Day. — Michael Shepherd

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Michael Shepherd

About Michael Shepherd

Michael Shepherd joined the Bangor Daily News in 2015 after covering state, federal and local issues for the Kennebec Journal for three years. He's a Hallowell native who now lives in Gardiner. He graduated from the University of Maine in 2012 and is a graduate student at the University of Southern Maine's Muskie School of Public Service.