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Maine Becomes 1st State to Expand Medicaid by Ballot Vote

Portland, Maine

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Two other states, Utah and Idaho, may attempt their own expansion-by-referendum on next year’s ballot.

Maine has become the first state in the nation to expand its Medicaid system by a referendum vote. As many as 80,000 residents of the state will gain coverage as a result of the decision.

As the Portland Press Herald reported early Wednesday morning, Maine residents approved the Question 2 measure by 59 percent with 75 percent of precincts reporting.

The state was one of 19 that chose not to expand when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2012 that the Affordable Care Act Medicaid expansion would be optional. The legislature has voted to expand nearly half a dozen times. Gov. Paul LePage, a Republican, vetoed each of those five attempts.

In the case of this referendum, LePage is not able to veto, but the legislature—which is controlled by Democrats in the House and tilts to the right in the Senate by one vote—could still block or amend the voters’ decision.

Two other states that opted out of expansion are watching Maine’s decision particularly closely. In Utah and Idaho, recently formed committees are working to bring a Medicaid expansion question to voters on next year’s ballot.

Quinn Libson is a Staff Correspondent for Government Executive’s Route Fifty based in Washington, D.C.

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