New Hampshire’s Republican-controlled Senate passed Medicaid expansion today

New_Hampshire_quarter,_reverse_side,_2000After getting together in multiple meetings to negotiate, Republican and Democratic leaders in the Granite State agreed on a compromise to expand Medicaid.

Today the Republican-controlled Senate passed the bill, 18-5.

New Hampshire’s Democratic governor backs it, and the Democratic-controlled House is also seen as likely to support it. Thus Medicaid expansion is effectively a done deal in New Hampshire.

People in New Hampshire support expansion by a 2-1 margin. To be more precise, 66% support, 25% oppose, and the rest were not sure.

Now, most Maine legislators and most Maine people support expansion as well.

But in the Pine Tree state, passing Medicaid expansion requires getting past the veto of Gov. Paul LePage.

The governor has had no interest in any form of expansion, not even the “private option” variant that 75% or more of Arkansas legislators in each legislative body just endorsed for the second year in the row. (New Hampshire’s plan has some elements in common with the Arkansas approach.)

So even though majorities in the Maine Hose and Senate have and will again support Medicaid expansion, Gov. Page will veto it. He opposes the expansion plan that includes cost controls, which was developed by two respected moderate Republicans, Senators Katz and Saviello.

The Katz-Saviello plan would also fund services for people on waiting lists, something Medicaid expansion opponents say is a priority yet have never proposed a plan with funding to cover them.

It’s unclear right now if there will be enough votes in the Maine Legislature to overturn a veto.

Swing Republican legislators are under enormous pressure from their party’s leadership and they are also hearing from citizens who need health coverage. (Intra-party tensions have also spilled over to current and former Republican staffers.)

If LePage’s promised veto isn’t overturned, about 20% of Maine’s uninsured will have no way of obtaining coverage and many more poor working people will have choices they will find very difficult to afford.

And if Medicaid isn’t expanded in Maine, the Pine Tree State will be the only state in New England not to do so. Maine will instead take its place with states like Mississippi, Texas and Alabama, non-expansion states which have high rates of infant mortality and preventible deaths.

Amy Fried

About Amy Fried

Amy Fried loves Maine's sense of community and the wonderful mix of culture and outdoor recreation. She loves politics in three ways: as an analytical political scientist, a devoted political junkie and a citizen who believes politics matters for people's lives. Fried is Professor of Political Science at the University of Maine. Her views do not reflect those of her employer or any group to which she belongs.