Gov. Paul LePage has amped up his already intense opposition to Medicaid expansion in Maine, ripping hospital executives who support expansion and claiming it will cost Maine far more than billed.

LePage has never shown any support for Medicaid expansion and has vetoed five legislative attempts at it plus one bid for universal health care. Now that the question is headed for a Nov. 7 referendum, Maine’s Republican governor is working aggressively to defeat Medicaid expansion at the ballot box after weeks of relative silence in public.

During a radio interview Monday morning on WVOM, LePage blamed Democrats, the media and the health care sector for colluding to convince Maine voters to support expansion.

“They’re misinforming people,” said LePage, who claimed the expansion will cost Maine at least $100 million more per year.

That’s nearly double what the Legislature’s Office of Fiscal Program and Review, which ranks the cost of bills for the Legislature, estimated. OFPR, a nonpartisan office of the legislative branch, estimated new state appropriations of around $81 million per year, which would be mitigated by $27 million in savings for an annual state budget impact of $54.4 million. That investment, according to OFPR, would provide Medicaid to approximately 70,000 more childless adults based on their incomes.

OFPR estimates that the state spending would be matched by $525 million a year in new federal funds to help cover expansion costs.

LePage accused the budget office of misstating the numbers. But his argument was largely based on partisan politics.

“I don’t agree with OFPR,” LePage said. “It’s a Democratic-run state office. It’s run by the majority party.”

Democrats hold a slight majority in the House of Representatives but Republicans control the Senate. OFPR has consistently maintained over the years that it is a non-political entity.

LePage is also lashing out at hospital executives. The Maine Hospital Association and Maine Medical Association are among the organizations that have endorsed passage of Question 2.

“Shame on them,” LePage said Friday in a written statement. “Hospitals are only concerned with their pocketbooks, and they don’t care about the hardships it will cause for taxpayers, the elderly and the disabled.”

LePage claimed Friday and Monday that hospitals are flush with cash, especially the ones in Maine’s cities.

“They don’t have to pay taxes on much of their vast real estate holdings,” LePage said, referring to Maine tax code provision that does not levy property taxes on nonprofit organizations. “Mainers do not have that luxury. In addition to paying their own high premiums and deductibles, they will have to pay to give ‘free’ health care to adults who should be working.”

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Christopher Cousins

Christopher Cousins has worked as a journalist in Maine for more than 15 years and covered state government for numerous media organizations before joining the Bangor Daily News in 2009.