Maine Dem group blames governor for hypothetical deaths

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Chuck Ross Investigative Reporter
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A Maine Democratic group has created a website that pins the theoretical deaths of Mainers on Gov. Paul LePage’s resistance to expanding Medicaid in the state.

Maine People’s Alliance created the website in an effort to pressure LePage, a Republican, to expand the government program. The group cites 157 as the “Number of Mainers estimated to die this year if Gov. LePage and the Legislature fail to accept federal health care funds.”

The site then encourages supporters to send letters to state lawmakers to drum up support for Medicaid expansion.

But the numbers cited by the group are based on a study whose methods have been called into question in the past.

The death toll figure is taken from a research paper published at the website titled “Opting Out of Medicaid Expansion: The Health And Financial Impacts.”

The study provided two estimates for the number of deaths that would have been avoided if states expanded Medicaid. The 157 number is the high-end estimate for the number of Maine deaths. It is based on a study conducted by Harvard School of Public Health professor Benjamin Sommers. Thirty-one was the low-end estimate for the number of Maine deaths and is not cited by Maine People’s Alliance.

The same study by Sommers was used by Keytone Progress, a progressive group in Pennsylvania in a similar campaign against Republican governor Tom Corbett. Last month, Keystone Progress unveiled the website which pinned the deaths of four people per day on Corbett, who has opposed President Obama’s version of Medicaid expansion. (RELATED: Progressive group’s website calls governor a murderer)

The Sommers study being used against the two governors does not paint a complete picture of the impact of Medicaid expansion, some have argued.

“In light of the foregoing, I can state with great confidence that the authors have grossly overestimated any mortality gains to be had from Medicaid expansion,” wrote Chris Conover, a health policy scholar with the American Enterprise Institute, in Forbes.

Conover and others criticized the study because it looked at only three states and found mixed results in terms of the impact Medicaid had on mortality.

Sommers’ study found a statistically significant increase in mortality in only one state, New York. But Sommers also found a statistically insignificant decrease in mortality in Arizona and a statistically insignificant increase in mortality in Maine.

Maine People’s Alliance, which has endorsed Democratic Rep. Mike Michaud for governor, was hesitant to answer questions on the methods of the study used to support their website’s top-line number.

Mike Tipping, the group’s spokesman, hung up on The Daily Caller News Foundation when asked to explain the methods of the study used to derive the 157 figure.

Maine People’s Alliance and Keystone Progress both fall under the umbrella of USAction, a progressive grassroots organization. Reached by phone, USAction said they could not comment on the tactics employed by their partner organizations.

LePage’s office hit back strongly at the Alliance’s web attack.

“The Maine Peoples Alliance is a radical extremist group that launches loathsome attacks against anyone who disagrees with their Marxist philosophy,” said LePage spokesman Peter Steele in a statement to The Daily Caller News Foundation. “This is a vile, last-gasp act of desperation by the radicals at MPA, but the people of Maine will not be swayed by their repulsive tactics.”

Maine is one of 21 states that opted against Medicaid expansion. LePage vetoed expansion last June because he fears that it will cannibalize other parts of the state’s budget and be too expensive in the long run. A majority of Maine senators recently voted to expand Medicaid in the state but did not come up with enough votes to override LePage’s veto.

(h/t The Maine Wire)

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