(The Center Square) – The implementation of the Affordable Care Act didn’t have as much of an effect on Maine’s uninsured rate as most other states, according to a recent report. But that might be attributable, in part, to the fact that Maine’s uninsured rate was already much lower than most states before the law was enacted.
Financial website QuoteWizard released a report that looks at how much each state saw its uninsured rate drop between 2010 and 2019. Each of the 50 states saw a notable decline in that time period, from a massive 64 percent drop in Rhode Island to a more moderate 11 percent decline in Texas.
For Maine, the dip was on the lower end, coming in 44th among the 50 states with a 24 percent decline. That works out to about 10.4 percent of the state’s population being uninsured in 2010, vs. about 7.8 percent in 2019.
The state’s rate in 2010 was one of the better figures in the country, in 11th place. Massachusetts, which was already running its own precursor to the Affordable Care Act at the time, had the lowest rate in the country, at 4.2 percent, while Texas was at the other extreme with 23.3 percent of its population lacking coverage.
By 2019, Maine had dropped to only 27th best as other states caught up to and surpassed the state in enrolling residents in insurance programs. By that point, Massachusetts remained in first place, with 2.9 percent of its residents uninsured, and Texas was still bringing up the rear with 18 percent uninsured.
Aside from the initially low numbers, part of Maine’s relative slide could also be attributed to the state’s reluctance to take part in the Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid expansion. Former Republican Gov. Paul LePage was a noted opponent of the ACA and the Medicaid expansion, to the point where he continued fighting against it even after voters indicated they were in favor of it in a November 2017 ballot initiative.
“Credit agencies are predicting that this fiscally irresponsible Medicaid expansion will be ruinous to Maine’s budget,” LePage said in a statement at the time, according to The Hill. “Therefore, my administration will not implement Medicaid expansion until it has been fully funded by the Legislature at the levels [the Department of Health and Human Services] has calculated, and I will not support increasing taxes on Maine families, raiding the rainy day fund or reducing services to our elderly or disabled.”
It wasn’t until current Gov. Janet Mills, a Democrat, took office in January 2019 that Maine accepted the Medicaid expansion option.
“The benefits of expansion – including this injection of hundreds of millions of dollars of federal funds – will extend to rural hospitals, to businesses, and to our economy as a whole," Mills said in a statement when the Medicaid expansion went into effect. "In the coming months, my Administration will work with partners across the state to ensure that those who qualify enroll and receive the health care they need to live heathy lives and remain in the workforce.”
Despite the relative recency of the Medicaid expansion in Maine, it appears that the option has proved popular with Maine residents, according to QuoteWizard. Since 2010, use of Medicaid for health insurance in the state has risen about 20 percent.
Maine is expected to launch its own Affordable Care Act marketplace in 2021; previously, Maine residents have had to use the federally run marketplace.