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Maine Small Business Coalition Supports Medicaid Expansion Initiative

More than 150 small-business owners in Maine are endorsing a ballot question to expand Medicaid. At a press conference in Portland on Tuesday, members of the Maine Small Business Coalition made the economic case for extending health care coverage to about 70,000 people.

When Portland-based developer Tim Soley looks at Medicaid expansion through a business lens, he sees the federal money that would flow into the state. Under the Affordable Care Act, the U.S. government covers about 90 percent of the cost to expand Medicaid.

“We are not accepting large amounts of funds that far more wealthy states all over the U.S. are accepting. And in a relatively poor state, Maine, we are shipping our tax dollars off to those wealthier states,” he says.

The Maine Center for Economic Policy estimates that Maine would receive about $500 million a year, and 3,000 jobs would be created.

But Brent Littlefield of the Maine Welfare to Work PAC says another small-business group, the Maine branch of the National Federation of Independent Business, opposes expansion because it sees the flip side of those economics, where it would cost the state $50 million-$100 million a year.

“If you expand Medicaid and the state budget goes into crisis, there are only two solutions. You either cut programs or you raise taxes,” he says.

If there’s an increase in sales tax, Littlefield says, that would harm small businesses.

The Maine State Chamber of Commerce has yet to take a position on the issue, but will consider it during a board meeting next week. The Maine Hospital Association recently announced it’s in favor of expansion. Voters will decide at the polls in November.

This story is made possible by a grant from the Doree Taylor Charitable Foundation.