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Maine Senate Narrowly Passes Medicaid Expansion

In a 18-17 vote, the Maine Senate has supported a measure sponsored by Republican Sen. Tom Saviello of Wilton that would provide health insurance to nearly 80,000 Mainers.

The measure would use Medicaid funds from the federal government to buy private health insurance for poor Mainers.

“Accepting the federal dollars that are already set aside, covering hardworking low-income residents will improve the health of Mainers, benefit our state economy and reduce cancer risk,” he says.

It’s estimated the proposal would bring in more than $2 billion in federal funds over the next five years and create 3,000 jobs.

Opponents argued that the cost of the program increases in future years and questioned whether the state should rely on a federal government that continues to build up its debt.

“Not only would MaineCare being incredibly expensive in the short term, signs point to it being disastrous in the long run,” says Republican Sen. Eric Brakey of Auburn. “Should we bet our future on the financial solvency of a federal government that only knows how to run up the credit cards?”

Supporters argue if the federal government cuts funding, the bill automatically sunsets.

Gov. Paul LePage has vetoed similar proposals in the past.

Journalist Mal Leary spearheads Maine Public's news coverage of politics and government and is based at the State House.