Politics gets a lot of bad press these days. It’s usually a code word for officials positioning themselves for the next election when they should be looking out for the people they represent.

But it’s also the word we use for the process that government uses to get things done. It’s time in Augusta for less of the first kind of politics and more of the second.

Right now, we are in the middle of a standoff between the governor and Democratic lawmakers over the expansion of Medicaid eligibility to provide health insurance for as many as 70,000 Mainers.

The governor has already vetoed it once, and no Republican stepped forward to vote to override it. They will likely get a second chance when a stand-alone Medicaid bill moves through the Legislature. Now it’s time to see the kind of politics that improves people’s lives.

The debate so far has focused mostly on the cost of expansion and how much would be covered by the federal government. That is important, but so are the thousands of low-income, working poor Mainers, who would not have any health coverage without this expansion.

A 2012 study from the Harvard School of Public Health found that expanding Medicaid to low-income adults results in better health and longer lives.


That alone should be enough to get lawmakers to put down the rhetoric and find a way to say yes instead of just saying no.

If the issue really is that members don’t trust the federal government to keep its promises, the bill could be passed with a condition: If the federal government’s share drops below the promised 90 match, Maine could drop out.

If the issue is that even the state’s relatively small match would add to a MaineCare budget that is already too big, passage could be paired with a commitment to work on lowering health care costs. Some states have managed care plans for their Medicaid programs and have able to keep program costs steady while general health care costs increased. Maine is one of six states chosen to pilot payment reform that could improve care and lower costs.

And if the issue is a general distaste for the Affordable Care Act, derisively known as Obamacare, it’s time to put those emotional responses aside.

The ACA is the law of the land, and it will either succeed or fail. Maine taxpayers contribute to expanding Medicaid in other states, and they should benefit from that federal spending here, whether or not all state lawmakers approve of the program.

The first four months of the legislative session have seen partisan politics at its worst. Now it’s time to see politics at its best.

Legislators should think of the people in their districts who would live healthier and longer lives with insurance and find a way to pass this bill.

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.