PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — A Maine judge is set to hear the latest legal arguments over the future of voter-approved Medicaid expansion. Oral arguments are set for Wednesday. The judge will decide whether Republican Gov. Paul LePage's administration has broken the law by stalling expansion.
Nearly 60 percent of Mainers last fall approved expanding Medicaid to 70,000 low-income residents. But the referendum didn't include a funding source for Maine's share, and LePage has opposed expansion over his financial concerns. LePage vetoed a bill to fund Medicaid expansion with budgetary surplus and one-time tobacco settlement funds, arguing such funding mechanisms are not sustainable. The Maine House sustained his veto.
A pro-Medicaid expansion group, Maine Equal Justice Partners, says LePage's administration is violating the spirit of a court order to submit paperwork for federal funding. Maine submitted the paperwork, but LePage urged federal regulators to reject it.
Democratic Attorney General and gubernatorial candidate Janet Mills has recused herself from the lawsuit. But her office filed a legal brief supporting Maine Equal Justice Partners' lawsuit that says Maine has enough state dollars to pay for the expansion.
"The commissioner's reliance on the Legislature's failure to appropriate new funds is not – at least so long as money remains in MaineCare accounts – a legal objection to implementing expansion," the brief states. "Rather, the commissioner's justification boils down to a policy argument that the Legislature, by its inaction, has left MaineCare in a precarious financial situation."