- Associated Press - Friday, March 28, 2014

AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) - The Maine Legislature sent a proposal to expand Medicaid coverage to roughly 70,000 residents to Gov. Paul LePage’s desk for the third time on Friday, where it faces a certain veto.

The Senate gave final approval to the measure Friday without taking a vote. It passed in both chambers earlier this month, but fell short of the two-thirds support lawmakers would need to override the Republican governor’s veto.

Democrats, who control the Legislature, urged LePage to join other Republican governors who have agreed to expand Medicaid coverage under the federal health care law, the Affordable Care Act.

“It’s time for Maine to join the rest of our New England neighbors and the 27 other states who have said yes to expansion,” Assistant Senate Majority Leader Anne Haskell of Portland said in a statement. “It’s time for Gov. LePage to put politics aside and sign this bill.”

LePage vetoed two expansion bills sent to his desk last session and his administration has fiercely opposed the new proposal, arguing that expanding Medicaid will be too costly and will further burden a program that already has thousands of elderly and disabled on waiting lists for services.

The measure was crafted by two Republican senators and includes multiple provisions designed to attract GOP lawmakers’ votes, but it has done little to shift the debate in Maine.

The proposal would privatize the state’s Medicaid program through managed care in an effort to curb costs. It would also allow Maine to withdraw from the expansion after three years, when the federal government begins to lower its share of the cost.

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