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Maine Hospital Association Supports Ballot Measure To Expand Medicaid

Maine’s hospitals came out in support Friday of a November ballot item that would expand the state’s Medicaid coverage to tens of thousands more state residents.

Maine Hospital Association vice president Jeff Austin says the group is generally wary of using voter referendums to make policy. But now that the question is on the ballot, he says, the association feels obligated to support the goal of helping those without good medical access get care.

And he says it will help the hospitals’ bottom line.

“We deal with over $100 million a year in charity care, providing services to the uninsured. Expansion will not cover everyone and will not fully erase that liability off our members’ books, but it will help tremendously,” Austin says.

Through Medicaid, the state’s MaineCare program mostly covers the poor and those with disabilities. The expansion would raise income limits for qualification.

Gov. Paul LePage and other Republicans oppose the measure, calling it an extension of welfare to able-bodied adults.

A Columbia University graduate, Fred began his journalism career as a print reporter in Vermont, then came to Maine Public in 2001 as its political reporter, as well as serving as a host for a variety of Maine Public Radio and Maine Public Television programs. Fred later went on to become news director for New England Public Radio in Western Massachusetts and worked as a freelancer for National Public Radio and a number of regional public radio stations, including WBUR in Boston and NHPR in New Hampshire.