Last week, we finally paid the hospitals the half-a-billion dollars in welfare debt the state has owed them for years. Before they could even cash their checks, liberal politicians were asking to expand welfare again. And now they claim that welfare expansion is free.
Hello, this is Governor Paul LePage.
The hospital debt was a result of expanding welfare in 2001. This led to broken budgets, unpaid hospital debt, and an unreliable welfare system.
Liberal politicians now want to expand welfare again and add 70,000 people to the MaineCare program. They keep telling Mainers that this expansion would be free because the federal government would pay for it.
But folks, as I keep saying, there is no free lunch. This expansion would cost Mainers hundreds of millions in local tax dollars. Expanding welfare would require more staff and more administrative costs at Maine's Department of Health and Human Services.
DHHS estimates that this so-called "free" expansion of welfare would cost millions of local Maine taxpayer dollars in the short-term. Then it will cost $150 million in each state budget after that. No matter what the liberal politicians tell you, that money has to come from hard-working Mainers.
What liberals will not admit is half of the 70,000 Mainers they want to put on MaineCare rolls would already be eligible to purchase private health insurance at reduced rates in 2014. Why would we put people on government healthcare when they could buy private health insurance at a very low rate?
We must focus on the 3,100 elderly and disabled Mainers who are on waiting lists for critical services. We must prioritize our tax dollars to care for them today.
The federal government will not pay Maine's welfare bill for the long-term. The federal government is 17-trillion-dollars in debt and continues to cut funding to states.
They are cutting food stamp benefits to Mainers. They have also drastically reduced money for MaineCare reimbursement to hospitals in recent years.
All Mainers should have affordable health care, but waving MaineCare expansion like a magic wand will not solve the problems in our welfare system.
We need to better manage our programs, provide care for our neediest residents and keep cracking down on fraud and abuse before adding one more dollar or one more person to the system.
Thank you for listening.