Today, we celebrate Maine’s historic vote to expand Medicaid (MaineCare). The margin of victory (59 to 41 percent, as of this writing) and geographic distribution of votes (supportive communities stretched from towns bordering Canada all the way to southern Maine) clearly demonstrate that Mainers believe access to health care shouldn’t depend on where you live or how much money you earn. Tuesday’s vote means more low-income folks will benefit from a full range of critical health care services, including family planning and reproductive care, and thus brings us closer to realizing our overlapping goals of reproductive and economic justice.
But we’re still fighting.
First, we must ensure that our elected officials act on the will of the people. Already, Gov. Paul LePage (R) is snubbing Maine voters, declaring Wednesday that his administration will block the expansion until the program “has been fully funded by the Legislature at the levels [the Department of Health and Human Services] has calculated.”
That’s not right—or legal.
According to Talking Points Memo:
Mainers for Health Care, the organization behind the campaign to expand Medicaid, said despite LePage’s bluster, he can’t stop the expansion train without violating state law.
“Under the state constitution, 45 days after the legislature reconvenes, Medicaid expansion will become the law of the state,” the group’s spokesman David Farmer told TPM. “According to the statute, the Department of Health and Human Services has 90 days after that to submit an implementation plan to the federal government, and the implementation itself will take place in mid-August of 2018.”
As Maine Family Planning community organizer Cait Vaughan reminded supporters in an email today, “we’ll need all of you to show up and make sure state legislators follow through on Medicaid expansion.”
Meanwhile, we must remember that until women can use their Medicaid coverage for all the medical services they need—including abortion—this victory remains incomplete.And so we’ll continue our battle to overturn the state’s ban on Medicaid coverage for abortions.
We’re fighting because the right to an abortion is meaningless if low-income or rural women can’t access one.
It’s appropriate that we participated today in the #ImStillFighting “tweetstorm” organized by Physicians for Reproductive Heath, marking one year since Election Day 2016—a year that has seen a wholesale assault on reproductive rights, the family planning safety net, and women’s health care.