Let’s say you want a bill to create thousands of jobs. The measure also should rescue vital community institutions in danger of shutting down or consolidating with out-of-town partners. It should improve the well-being of many thousands of Mainers in lasting ways. And it shouldn’t saddle the state’s taxpayers with a new financial burden.

Impossible, you say? Not at all. The Legislature already has tried to enact this bill, and a flick of the governor’s pen would take us there.

The bill is, of course, Medicaid expansion, and if you haven’t heard anything about it for months, you’re not alone. It’s become the best-kept secret around the State House.

Finally, four bills that would accept federal funds to allow 70,000 Mainers to see a doctor and go to the hospital — and return 30,000 more summarily dumped from the rolls two years ago — are being heard today by the Health and Human Services Committee.

For legislation that represents the ultimate win-win in governing, this is far more than a day late and a dollar short.

It’s only six weeks before the session’s end — precious little time to negotiate a compromise that would do more good for Maine and its people than anything else this Legislature will consider. Tax reform, receiving infinitely more attention, runs a distant second.

Yes, everyone knows Gov. Paul LePage stands foursquare against accepting another federal health care dollar. He’s made it the ultimate test of his opposition to “big government.”

But as anyone who’s spent five minutes honestly examining the policy choices knows, this is one place LePage is so tear-your-hair-out wrong that it’s hard to see why he’s taken seriously, let alone had five vetoes upheld.

To think as the governor does, you must believe that some Mainers should forever be denied regular access to health care, something every person in all other advanced countries has had for decades.

We can accept federal Medicaid funding tomorrow and not only cost the state nothing, but boost the budget by $26 million, as a new Maine Health Access Foundation report spells out. Federal funds would replace state spending for those in nursing homes, mental institutions, jails and prisons — whose health needs are high and whose incomes are non-existent.

Providers would get a lifeline — nearly $400 million annually to support many more than 5,000 jobs. Best of all, Maine would become a healthier state with a better-prepared workforce and children who avoid life-long chronic diseases. What’s not to like?

It’s saddening so many Maine Republicans still stick their heads in the sand about health care. No one else will insure this population. There’s no help from any other quarter.

But Republicans have been consistent, if wrong. What about Democrats?

There’s a near-silence from the people who created and implemented the Affordable Care Act. It starts at the top.

President Barack Obama has been curiously diffident about what is surely his signature achievement. When a great piece of news about Obamacare comes along — insurance exchange signups exceed projections, or Congress predicts ACA costs will be 11 percent lower than projected — the president mentions it once, and that’s it.

The most inglorious loser in 2014 was Alison Lundergan Grimes, a Kentucky Democrat pitted against then-Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, another Republican who, like LePage, would never lift a finger to implement Obamacare, while vowing to make Obama a one-term president.

Kentucky’s Medicaid expansion launch was the best of any state, yet Grimes barely mentioned health care. She sank like a stone, and administered the coup de grace to herself by refusing to say whether she voted for Obama.

By contrast, Maine Democrats pushed hard, if not always strategically, for Medicaid expansion, but once LePage was re-elected they fell silent — exactly the wrong message.

Lawmakers may or may not succeed in overcoming the governor’s opposition this year, but this is about the future. Maine needs to build, over time, a powerful coalition of hospitals, businesses, non-profits, patients and consumers to make unmistakably plain what we already know in our hearts: Every one of us needs health care.

It’s a good thing, not a bad thing, to create a health system that can finally serve the needs of all. We don’t need to invent it ourselves, though we can improve and build on the ACA model.

As it stands, the state with the Northeast’s lowest incomes is also the only state in the region without full access to health care. It’s a wrong that must be righted.

Who will start speaking out? And who will keep the conversation going as long as it takes?

Douglas Rooks has covered the State House for 30 years. Comment is welcomed at [email protected]

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