Maine judge orders GOP governor to implement Medicaid expansion

A Maine judge on Wednesday ruled that the state must implement an expansion of Medicaid passed by voters last year, despite strong objections from outgoing GOP Gov. Paul LePage.

The ruling follows a long legal battle over the expansion of Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. Voters passed the expansion last year, but LePage has steadfastly refused to follow that decision.

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Maine Superior Court Justice Michaela Murphy on Wednesday ordered LePage to comply, and set a deadline of Dec. 5 for putting in place rules around the expansion.

“Although the Governor may believe implementation to be unwise and disagree with the Act as a matter of policy, he may not ignore the will of the people and refuse to take any action toward accomplishing the policy objectives of the Act,” Murphy wrote in the opinion.

Medicaid expansion, which is estimated to bring health coverage to around 70,000 people in Maine, was likely to move forward anyway in January given that a Democrat, Janet Mills, was just elected governor and will be taking over from LePage.

The decision, though, is a defeat in court for LePage, who has argued that the expansion has not been adequately funded. LePage, however, vetoed a funding bill earlier this year.

“The Governor plans on appealing but we are still analyzing the decision,” LePage’s office said Wednesday.

The judge’s ruling states that LePage’s administration has “failed and refused to comply” with the law calling for expansion.