Universal Home Care Defeated in Maine

A ballot question received a resounding no vote from the voters of Maine on November 6th. Voters were asked to vote yes or no on a ballot initiative that would have created the nation’s first state-run home care program.  The program would be available to all residents regardless of income level.

In order to pay for the program, Maine residents that earn greater than $128,400 would be required to pay an additional 3.8% income tax on earnings.

The ballot question was intended to increase quality of care by improving training and education of home care staff – home makers, PCAs and others. Supporters pointed out that Maine has the highest population of older residents and therefore needs such a program to augment the existing Medicaid home care program.

Opponents to the question included not only politicians, but many business groups and even healthcare industry groups such as the Maine Hospital Association. Opponents provided many reasonable, and logical reasons for their opposition to the program and ballot initiative.

These included driving physicians who typically earn much more $128,400 per year away from the state as they would be forced to pay higher income taxes.  Then there comes the question of regulation and accountability – who is going to oversee the new program and how much will that cost? Overall, it came down to taxes and control – who is going to pay and how is the program going to be run.

Maine was the first in the nation to put a ballot measure for universal home care in front of voters.  Hawaii has a similar program that pays a stipend to residents who look after the elderly already while many other states have programs which can be called Adult Foster Care programs through Medicaid.