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Maine voted to expand Medicaid by referendum. Could Missouri do the same?

On Tuesday, the electorate in Maine voted 59 percent to 41 percent in favor of expanding Medicaid. Now, Raytown resident Gary Peterson is at the beginning of what could be a long fight to get the same question on the ballot in Missouri next year.

Peterson’s Medicaid expansion initiative is more of a long shot than the one in Maine. The Missouri Secretary of State’s Office approved his referendum question last month, but now he needs about 100,000 signatures.

Missourians can put a legal change on the ballot if the language is certified by the Missouri Secretary of State’s Office and then gets the signatures of at least 5 percent of the number of people who voted in the last governor’s election in at least six of the state’s congressional districts.

The effort in Maine was backed by a heavyweight coalition of groups, including those that represent the state’s nurses, doctors and hospitals.

Peterson’s effort doesn’t have the backing of any of those groups in Missouri, but he said he’s sent about 500 letters and emails, mostly to health care facilities and churches, and he’s reached out to the Missouri Democratic Party for help.

Sam Newton, a spokesman for the Missouri Democratic Party, said a party official talked to Peterson Wednesday. Newton said the party is “supportive of finding new ideas to expand healthcare and lower costs for working Missourians” but can’t take an official position on Peterson’s petition without a vote from its state committee.

Dave Dillon, the vice president of public and media relations for the Missouri Hospital Association, said that his organization is taking a different approach out of political necessity. Maine’s state government is Republican-controlled, but more of the state’s registered voters identify as Democrats. Missouri’s party affiliation numbers lean solidly Republican.

Read more: Kansas City Star

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