With all the problems Maine is facing revising the state budget to account for shortfalls in the Medicaid program, you’d think that the governor’s office would take all the help it could get. But that’s not the case.

On Wednesday, Kathleen Sebelius, secretary of Health and Human Services, told the U.S. Senate finance committee that she had offered to send a team to Maine to help the state craft a plan that would comply with federal law. That offer apparently was not accepted.

Sebelius said she committed to help Maine save on short-term administrative costs as well as look at long-term changes to programs that would save money over time.

“We again made it clear to (Gov. Paul LePage) what was within the state’s discretion,” she said to the committee, in response to a question from U.S. Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine. “(W)e did not have a lot of paper from the governor about what exactly was the proposal.”

If LePage did have a response, he is keeping it to himself, so the rest of us are left to guess why he did not take up the secretary on her offer.

One reason may be that he is less interested in reducing the state’s social service budget than he is in making a ideological statement by yanking health coverage away from 65,000 people.

And he is willing to make that statement even if it shortchanges hospitals, shifts costs onto municipalities and private health insurance premium payers and threatens jobs in the health care sector.

Abandoning the elderly, veterans, people with disabilities or serious illnesses is apparently also not a problem.

Senate President Kevin Raye tried to put the best face on this news, saying that it is a “positive sign that a key administration official is now suggesting that the administration will work cooperatively with the state to reduce the explosive growth in the MaineCare program,” but Sebelius made it clear to the committee that this was not a secret offer.

“We’re doing that with states across the country,” she said.

It is unclear why the governor did not immediately snap up her offer.

It’s a question lawmakers should be asking as they review a bipartisan compromise that seeks to plug the same hole in the budget without as much impact on the lives of the people who need help.


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