With the statewide vote on Medicaid expansion less than two weeks away, supporters and opponents continued to campaign this weekend.

On Saturday, dozens of volunteers who favor expanding Medicaid knocked on doors across the state, while a rally by opponents on the Maine State Pier in Portland drew 20 attendees, four of them speakers.

Both sides are gearing up for the Nov. 7 election, when Maine voters will become the first in the nation to weigh in on Medicaid expansion by referendum. Maine is among 19 states whose legislators or governors have not expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act.

At the rally sponsored by the Cumberland County Republican Committee, several speakers who are seeking statewide office spoke against the measure. Sen. Eric Brakey of Auburn, a 2018 Republican candidate for U.S. Senate, twice said erroneously of expansion, “Five times the Legislature rejected this.”

In fact, the Legislature’s five attempts at expansion were each vetoed by Gov. Paul LePage, which led to the effort by expansion supporters to put the issue on the ballot.

Brent Littlefield, a spokesman for the Welfare to Work Political Action Committee, which opposes Question 2, countered that the Legislature had the opportunity to overturn LePage’s vetoes but failed to do so.


Brakey said that expanding Medicaid would not lower health care costs.

“It puts a Band-Aid on the problem and does not address the underlying diseases. There are things we could do to lower health care costs,” Brakey said.

Mary Mayhew, the former commissioner of the Maine Department of Health and Human Services and a 2018 Republican gubernatorial candidate, was supposed to speak but canceled because of a family obligation, organizers said.

Mark Holbrook of Brunswick, a 2018 Republican candidate for Maine’s 1st District seat, said liberals are behind the expansion proposal.

“It’s a trap to enslave Maine people into a life of dependency,” he said.

LePage has continued to vociferously attack the measure. He and other opponents, including the Welfare to Work PAC, claim hospitals would benefit from expansion at the expense of Maine taxpayers. On Friday, LePage criticized Maine’s hospitals for supporting expansion.


LePage says Medicaid expansion would cost Maine taxpayers $100 million a year over five years. But the Legislature’s nonpartisan Office of Fiscal and Program Review said expansion would cost taxpayers $54 million a year while Maine would receive $525 million a year from the federal government for Medicaid expansion.

Littlefield said the last time Maine expanded Medicaid, the estimates for enrollment were off by 53 percent. He said independent studies back LePage’s estimate that expansion, when fully phased in, would cost taxpayers up to $100 million a year.

In another part of the city and across the state Saturday, volunteers in favor of Medicaid expansion went door to door in an effort to get out the vote. Pro-expansion volunteers had knocked on 150,000 doors as of Saturday morning and were aiming at reaching another 50,000 before the Nov. 7 vote, said David Farmer, communications director for Mainers for Health, the lead pro-expansion group.

He said efforts have shifted from trying to persuade people to vote in favor of the measure to getting them to vote. This is an election year when there are no statewide or national races to draw people to the polls.

Littlefield said expansion opponents held no other events Saturday and did not do any canvassing. He said campaign finance reports filed this past week show why: “We’ve been outspent by more than 300 percent to date,” he said, “and virtually all the (supporters’) money has come from out of state.”

Volunteers in favor of Question 2 canvassed in Portland, Kennebec County, Bangor and Biddeford with a message that expansion will create jobs, help rural hospitals and extend medical care to about 70,000 uninsured Maine residents in addition to the 265,000 who are now enrolled in the program, which provides health coverage for low-income people.


One Portland canvasser, baby boomer Eileen Kalikow of Cape Elizabeth, said this was her first time canvassing.

“I strongly believe it is very important that people in Maine have access to Medicaid, especially for people who can’t advocate for themselves,” said Kalikow, a career counselor.

Caleb Greenawalt of Portland, a millennial, said this was his fifth Saturday knocking on doors for expansion.

“It is an easy thing to do on a Saturday morning,” Greenawalt said.

Staff Writer Meredith Goad contributed to this report.

Beth Quimby can be contacted at 791-6363 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: bquimby

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