Maine's governor warned this week that if a court tells him he must expand Medicaid without budgeted state funding, he'd go to jail before putting Maine in "red ink."
Nearly three out of five voters last fall voted to expand Medicaid to 80,000 Mainers by July 2. The Republican governor is fighting a court order requiring him to follow the voter-approved law and submit paperwork for Maine to receive federal funding.
"One thing I know is nobody can force me to put the state in red ink and I will not do that," Gov. Paul LePage said during a Wednesday call-in on WVOM-FM. "You can tell the Maine people: I would go to jail before I put the state in red ink. And If the court tells me I have to do it, then we're going to be going to jail."
This month, LePage successfully vetoed a bill to hire new staffers for Medicaid expansion and use surplus and tobacco settlement funds to ensure Maine has enough money for its share of the first year of expansion.
LePage said the Legislature has spoken by not funding Medicaid expansion. Advocates are encouraging Mainers to sign-up for Medicaid, and say Maine has enough Medicaid funds to cover its costs through mid-2019.
LePage for months has said lawmakers must come up with a long-term, "sustainable" plan to fund expansion under his terms, including no new taxes. He's now informally suggesting hospital taxes could cover expansion.
"We'd do the hospital tax and bring it up to what is needed to fund Medicaid expansion and be done with it," he said. "The offset to that would be there would be no more charity care. There'd be no more bad debt. Everything would be taken care of."
A lobbyist for the Maine Hospital Association has said hospitals already pay $100 million in annual taxes. Republican Senate President Mike Thibodeau previously said if formally proposed, such a tax would normally require a public hearing.