We on the Legislature’s Health and Human Services Committee recently took an important vote to solve an ongoing problem plaguing Maine’s elderly and the people who care for them. Maine’s nursing homes are chronically underfunded, with our Medicaid system shorting them by $29.4 million in 2011 alone.

The committee voted to approve L.D. 1776, which would close that funding gap by $10 million. That’s a good start. However, the state’s Medicaid program cannot meet its obligations to seniors if we vote to expand welfare coverage 70,000 or more able-bodied adults under Obamacare.

Maine already has the third-largest Medicaid enrollment in the country, and that’s led to massive hospital debts and regular budget shortfalls. It’s time to prioritize our Medicaid funding to help the people the program was originally created to help: The elderly, disabled and children.

How will we pay the nursing homes what they need if we commit to spending $800 million over the next decade on free coverage for able-bodied adults of working age? The argument for Medicaid expansion is further weakened by the fact that the vast majority of those eligible already can get coverage for a few dollars per month on the exchange.

L.D. 1776 still requires the approval of the whole Legislature and of the budget committee. I urge residents to call or email their legislators and ask them to reject Obamacare’s welfare expansion and put our seniors back at the front of the line for Medicaid services.

Rep. Deborah SandersonR-Chelsea

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