AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) — Republican Gov. Paul LePage is accusing Democratic legislators of reneging on their promise to repay a $484 million debt to Maine's hospitals, but a Democratic leader says the majority party has no intention of backing away from its commitment.
During a meeting Thursday, Democratic leaders told LePage they want to tie the debt repayment to an expansion of Medicaid through the national Affordable Care Act to at least 55,000 people. LePage has viewed Medicaid expansion and repaying the hospitals as separate issues.
Of Maine's total debt for Medicaid expenses, the state would pay $186 million and the federal government would cover the rest. On the other hand, Maine would save nearly $700 million over the next decade if it accepts the federal funds to expand Medicaid, according to estimates.
LePage issued a statement Friday night expressing frustration that his plan to repay the hospitals, which would get its financing from a renegotiation of the state's liquor sales contract, has not been voted on in the nearly four months since he first proposed it. His press release was headlined: "Democrats Renege on Paying Hospitals."
"Democratic leadership has committed to the Maine people that they want pay to the hospitals. What's the holdup?" LePage's statement said. "Let's put each legislator on the record with a clean vote on the hospital bill. Do they want to pay the hospitals or not?"
Senate President Justin Alfond said Democrats "are committed to paying back the hospitals and plan to do so."
"In addition, we want to help solve the health care crisis and need a comprehensive approach to managing our health care costs — and that includes accepting federal health care dollars. Just yesterday, we had a thoughtful exchange of ideas with the governor and Republican and leaders about both of these issues," Alfond said in a statement released Friday night.