Maine recently received a $33 million federal grant to improve efficiency and service in Medicare, Medicaid and the private health care market — an important step.

Another way to improve access to affordable health care is through Medicaid expansion. Thousands of Americans have lost their jobs and cannot afford health insurance or are working in jobs without health benefits.

Expanding affordable health coverage in 2013 through the Affordable Care Act would have helped more than 16,000 Mainers ages 50 to 64 who find themselves in this situation and who do not qualify for Medicaid health coverage.

Unfortunately, our Legislature couldn’t garner enough votes to override the governor’s veto of Medicaid expansion.

The Affordable Care Act expands health coverage options; just one element of the law would give people without insurance access to preventive and primary care. Over time, expanding affordable health coverage would keep costs down across the entire health care system. Even the conservative Heritage Foundation published a 2013 report stating that Maine would save almost $700 million through this measure.

It’s common sense: If there is a way to help residents get back on their feet after losing their jobs, the state should take advantage of that opportunity. Maine missed the initial chance in 2013 to accept millions of dollars in federal funds to offer residents health insurance as well as reduce hospital debt and charity care. We urge our elected leaders to do the right thing in 2014 and expand health care coverage for hardworking Mainers.

Rich Livingston, president

AARP Maine

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