Maine Senate barely passes Medicaid expansion

In a vote of 18-17, the Senate in Maine has decided to advance a bill to expand Medicaid in the state, according to the Portland Press Herald.

The bill, L.D. 633, will now move to the House, where it is expected to pass due to a Democratic majority. However, it's expected to be vetoed by Republican Gov. Paul LePage.

Attempts to expand Medicaid in Maine have already previously failed five times.

There have been contradictory estimates regarding how much the bill — which is sponsored by moderate Republicans Sen. Tom Saviello and Sen. Roger Katz — could save or cost the state. The Maine Department of Health and Human Services estimated Medicaid expansion could cost the state $315 million over the next five years. Meanwhile, the Legislature's Office of Fiscal and Program Review claimed that through fiscal year 2018, expansion could cost the state $93 million, but the state would receive almost $1.2 billion in federal funds.

Some senators expressed an optimistic outlook for the future of the bill. "If we have an opportunity to provide coverage to over 70,000 of the neediest Mainers in a financially responsible way, we should do it," said Sen. James Dill (D), according to the report.

But others aren't as sure. "Should we bet our future on the financial solvency of the federal government that only knows how to run up the credit cards?" said Sen. Eric Brakey (R), co-chair of the Legislature's Health and Human Services Committee, according to the report. "When the federal government hits the inevitable brick wall at the end of this unsustainable road, who will be left holding the bag on Medicaid expansion?"

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