The lessons of Maine’s 2002 expansion of Medicaid are being lost in the current campaign to further expand coverage for able-bodied, childless adults between the ages of 21 and 65. Enrollment in 2002 exploded after that expansion, while the uninsured rate remained flat, our GDP actually slowed, and charity care at hospitals increased. Many enrollees dropped their private insurance to switch to Medicaid. Our costs skyrocketed with the expansion, while doctors received less compensation and hospitals went unpaid. It is estimated that this new expansion alone will cost Maine upwards of $54 million annually, and require more than 100 new state positions to administer it.

What is really disturbing is the money that has pushed this referendum question before Maine voters this November. Over $196,000 was raised to convince Maine to expand Medicaid, and $75,000 (38 percent) came from an out-of-state group called The Fairness Project, which is backed by the Service Employees International Union. The remaining support came from progressive groups in Maine, including the Maine People’s Alliance and Planned Parenthood.

In contrast to this, one group, Welfare to Work, spent a total of $229 to oppose the expansion. The Maine Center for Economic Policy was paid $965 to collect the needed signatures to get this question on the ballot — almost three times the entire expenditure to oppose it.

After our last expansion, there were waitlists of elderly and disabled Mainers who were in dire need of services, due to the burdens of covering able-bodied, childless adults.

Let us not repeat the mistake that was made in 2002. Follow the money — outside interests are pushing an expansion that has not worked in Maine before, and is not working in many of the states that have already expanded Medicaid. This expansion will not help our elderly and disabled, and spells economic woe for our state.

Linda Winterberg

Wiscasset