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House, Senate OK Medicaid Expansion, But Threat of Veto Looms

A bill that would use federal Medicaid dollars to expand access to drug addiction treatment and mental health services passed narrowly in the Senate Wednesday and was approved almost entirely along party lines in the House.

Rep. Charlotte Warren, a Hallowell Democrat, told her seat mates they should listen to Maine’s law enforcement community who say the bill would provide financial assistance to the state’s cash-strapped county jails.

“They and their members are on the front lines of this crisis and what they have learned from their brothers and sisters in law enforcement across the country is this — states that have accessed the federal funds are seeing a reduction in drug related crime and re-incarceration,” Warren said.

Rep. Debbie Sanderson, a Chelsea Republican, said that despite support from the law enforcement community, Medicaid expansion carries potential short-term costs and uncertain costs in the long run.

“Should we bet our future on the financial solvency of a federal government that only knows how to run up the credit cards?” Sanderson said. “When the federal government hits the inevitable brick wall at the end of this unsustainable road, who will be left holding the bag on Medicaid expansion — it will be us if we expand, it won’t be us if we don’t.”

The measure was approved by a single vote in the Senate and 85-64 in the House, numbers that are currently far short of the two-thirds vote needed to override the governor’s promised veto of the bill.

Copyright 2016 Maine Public

A.J. came to Maine Public Radio in August 2007 after a stint as a staff writer for Blethen Maine Newspapers. His news coverage for the Kennebec Journal in Augusta also appeared in the Waterville Morning Sentinel, the Portland Press Herald and the Maine Sunday Telegram. Prior to joining the Kennebec Journal, A.J. served for 13 years as political editor and State House bureau chief for the Bangor Daily News.

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