The Medicaid expansion is “absolutely” the most important issue in the session, says Justin Alfond, Senate president. The debate on it, he adds, will take place “right away.” There’s “a great sense of urgency” about the issue, agrees Mark Eves, House speaker.

Both Alfond and Eves — interviewed separately in their offices — calculate that the state, by not taking the money, is forgoing $700,000 a day from the feds beginning January 1. (That’s $5.6 million by the date the session opens for business.) Besides the moral argument of the need to help people obtain health care, they emphasize the value of that money pumped into the leaky Maine economy.

They’re guardedly upbeat. “I think we’re going to be successful,” Alfond says. A major reason, he adds, is that the state’s hospitals are putting pressure on their local GOP legislators. Still, Eves cautions, the vote will “continue to
be close.”

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