You know the old adage "As Maine goes, so goes the nation"? Well, under the leadership of my opponent for governor, Gov. Paul LePage, that is no longer the case. Instead of leading Maine, he is making us fall behind.
Last week, on January 1, millions of struggling Americans across the country got the health care coverage they deserved because of Medicaid expansion. But not here in Maine. Because of a purely partisan veto by Gov. LePage last year, tens of thousands of Mainers are being denied the care they deserve.
Now is the time for Maine to join the growing list of states, governed by both Republicans and Democrats, and expand access to Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. We've delayed it for too long.
It's the right moral and economic thing to do.
Nearly 70,000 Mainers -- our neighbors, our friends and our families -- would gain access to care. They are veterans, small business owners, single parents and people working in jobs that are low-wage and do not provide health insurance.
We can come together and make their lives better and help our state's economy to grow.
The numbers are particularly compelling. Maine stands to gain $650 million over 10 years. Medicaid expansion could create about 3,100 jobs and promote more than $350 million in economic activity annually in Maine.
Expansion will also improve worker productivity, promote a more competitive business climate and generate $16 million to $18 million in new state and local revenue every year.
Passing up this funding would be a terrible mistake. For some who are struggling without health care, it's an issue of life and death.
There is no rational explanation for the state's unwillingness to accept these federal dollars. Only blind partisanship and extreme ideology are standing in the way, and it's unconscionable.
Republican governors in states like Arizona, Nevada, New Jersey and New Mexico have already realized this. That's why they have already accepted federal dollars to expand Medicaid in their states and ensure that their constituents can get the care they need when they need it.
Now is the time for Gov. LePage and state Republicans to follow their lead. As Maine's Legislature returns to work, our state has a second chance to do the right thing for Maine people and Maine's economy.
That's why I've started a petition calling on Gov. LePage and the State Legislature to support Medicaid expansion and give thousands of Mainers the coverage they deserve.
If we can apply enough pressure on LePage to change his mind, other states across the country can use our example to make changes in their states, too.
Mainers like Anna Durand and Richard Holt.
Anna is a small business owner in Bar Harbor. She's owned her business for 22 years. Though her children have health care, she and her husband do not. Like so many uninsured Americans, they are one unexpected medical emergency away from losing their home or falling into financial ruin. It doesn't have to be this way. Had Gov. LePage signed the bipartisan Medicaid Expansion bill last year, Anna and her husband would have health care today.
Richard is a fisherman, lobsterman and carpenter from South Portland. Like many Mainers he works two or three part-time jobs to put food on the table and heat their home, without employer-sponsored health coverage, he's just one illness away from bankruptcy -- or even worse. He lost his health care coverage on Dec. 31 because we didn't expand access to Medicaid. Though he tries to stay healthy, years of physically intensive work have left him with chronic injuries and recurring pain. With heath care he can stay on the job, stay healthy and be more productive.
The stories of these Mainers really say it all. These are the people I had in mind as I cast my vote in favor of health insurance reform. I'm hopeful the governor and the Legislature will do the right thing and accept this critical federal funding.