Could we get the truth about what Medicaid expansion costs, please?

Democratic House Speaker Mark Eves has launched the latest missile in the never-ending back-and-forth over whether Maine should expand Medicaid.

His office announced Monday that Democrats will propose a bill that calls for the cancellation of the state’s contract with the Alexander Group. That’s the consulting firm the LePage administration retained to assist Maine in finding efficiency in MaineCare and other human services programs.

It’s just the latest installment in a rhetorical war that has gotten us nowhere. My question is, when will taxpayers hear the truth about the cost of expanding Medicaid?

Gov. Paul LePage has the Alexander Group report that says expansion will cost us taxpayers $800 million over the next 10 years. Then, an AARP report claims the Alexander Group messed up its calculations to the tune of $575 million. Democratic legislators, meanwhile, continue to tout the expansion’s three years of 100 percent federal funding. And proponents of the expansion continue to cobble together enough Republican votes to pass the Medicaid expansion bill with enough votes to override a veto by the governor.

When it comes to the cost, which is it? How are we taxpayers going to support another 70,000-100,000 people on this welfare program?

I realize that nothing I write is going to change the minds of liberals and progressives. But we need to confront certain financial realities if this expansion occurs. Is there a neutral, dispassionate expert out there who can break it down for us?

In my time in the Maine Senate, I served on the Health and Human Services Committee with former Gov. John Baldacci. Every day, we heard testimony on mental health, welfare, nursing home care and everything in between. In another term, I served with U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud on the Appropriations Committee.

The Health and Human Services Committee was all emotion: Let’s find a way to do more. The Appropriations Committee was about combining emotion with basic math.  At the end of the day there were always more pleas for government to do more and not enough tax money to say yes to everyone.

I share this not to impress you, but rather to impress upon you the behind-the-headlines, day-to-day choices legislators are lobbied to support. When lawmakers say yes to one of these well-meaning program, they need to know the potential consequences. That’s why we taxpayers need an expert to step up and deliver a dispassionate, comprehensive analysis of this politically charged mission to further expand welfare.

This year’s combination of electioneering and legislative maneuverings could leave the taxpayers in 10 years wondering how they got stuck with yet another health care shock to the state budget.

My sense is that taxpayers are struggling. Meanwhile, the Legislature seems bent on using one-time money — in my time in the Senate, that would be labeled a gimmick — to prevent cuts to revenue sharing for towns and cities. And by the way, the current state budget is out of balance by about $90 million almost exclusively because of MaineCare.

Taxpayers need to know: Is there an expert out there who can tell us how much health insurance for 70,000-100,000 people will cost before the Legislature passes this into law?

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