Maine supreme court rejects GOP governor's attempt to slow Medicaid expansion

Maine supreme court rejects GOP governor's attempt to slow Medicaid expansion

Maine Gov. Paul LePage (R) must move forward with Medicaid expansion after the state’s highest court denied his request to delay implementation.

The ruling Thursday by the state Supreme Court dealt a blow to LePage, who has been blocking Medicaid expansion ever since voters approved it in November.

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However, the court did not rule on the merits of the case; it dismissed LePage’s appeal of a lower court decision, sending the case back to Superior Court.

The initial lawsuit was filed after LePage failed to meet an April deadline to submit a two-page State Plan Amendment to the federal government that establishes a process for ensuring eligibility for people under 65 years of age who qualify for medical assistance.

A Superior Court judge on June 4 ruled against the LePage administration and set a June 11 deadline for the governor to submit the plan to the federal government. The state appealed that order to the Maine Supreme Judicial Court, and a temporary stay was issued so arguments could be heard.

Thursday’s Supreme Court ruling lifted the temporary stay and ordered the the lower court to resolve outstanding questions in the original lawsuit.

Expanding Medicaid will allow Maine to receive federal funds for up to 90 percent of the cost of expansion. The expansion will open up the program to anyone who earns up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level — $16,753 for an individual or $34,638 for a family of four.

LePage, who is term-limited and will leave office in January, has vowed to do everything in his power to oppose expansion. He has vetoed Medicaid expansion six times during his tenure as governor. The Republican running to replace him has also vowed to continue fighting expansion, while the Democratic candidate promised to implement it.

LePage has called on the state Legislature to fund expansion before he implements it, but earlier this year he vetoed a bill that would have provided $60 million for the first year of expansion.