Court Rules Maine Must Put Medicaid Expansion in Motion

Courtesy  Matthew Gagnon Wikimedia Commons

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Paul LePage had blocked the Medicaid expansion that voters in his state approved last November, but a judge ordered his administration move ahead with the expansion June 4, according to The New York Times.

DHHS has until June 11 to submit the plan to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

Superior Court Justice Michaela Murphy minced no words in her 13-page ruling issued Monday, which orders Gov. Paul LePage's administration to begin implementing the Medicaid expansion approved by ME voters last November.

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The LePage administration had argued that it could not expand Medicaid until the Legislature appropriates money for the expansion.

"The governor can not ignore the law", said Robyn Merrill, executive director of Maine Equal Justice Partners, the lead plaintiff in the lawsuit and the group that led the ballot initiative campaign. Superior Court Justice Michaela Murphy disagreed with such arguments in her court order Monday.

The Bangor Daily News reported that a LePage spokeswoman said the governor was reviewing the decision, but did not indicate whether he would appeal to the Maine Supreme Judicial Court. She said federal law allows the state Legislature to pass a law withdrawing from the expansion if lawmakers so desire, since Medicaid expansion is optional for the states. The LePage administration says it will cost as much as $60 million in the first year and as much as $100 million annually in future years.

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"Today is a victory for the 70,000 Mainers who stand to gain coverage from Medicaid expansion and for everyone who believes that health care should be a right for all, not just a privilege for a wealthy few", Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez said. "The Court concludes that the "complete failure to act" by [Commissioner of Maine Department Health and Human Services Ricker Hamilton] "cannot be considered substantial compliance" with the voter-approved statute".

This is why it's likelier that Utah will expand Medicaid by ballot box.

The Maine Equal Justice Partners, a nonprofit legal aid group, sued after Mr. LePage missed the ballot measure's April 3 deadline to outline the state's expansion plans to federal officials.

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