May 26, 2018
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LePage signals that legal battle with feds over Medicaid is not over

Troy R. Bennett | BDN
Troy R. Bennett | BDN
Gov. Paul LePage
By Mario Moretto, BDN Staff

AUGUSTA, Maine — Gov. Paul LePage’s administration seems likely to appeal a federal court ruling that the state cannot end Medicaid coverage for low-income 19- and 20-year-olds.

In an interview with MPBN, LePage said he expects the lawsuit will end up at the U.S. Supreme Court.

“I don’t know about the rest of the people on the staff, but I thought from the first time this would end up on [Chief Justice John] Roberts’ lap,” LePage told MPBN’s Mal Leary. “This has to be decided at the Supreme Court, and we are just going through the process.”

Adrienne Bennett, LePage’s press secretary, said Tuesday that if any litigation were pending, she could not comment. However, she said LePage “signalled” he did not expect the legal fight was over.

In 2012, the state sought to drop non-disabled young adults from coverage. But the federal government denied the request, citing provision of the Affordable Care Act, or “Obamacare,” which requires states to maintain the same eligibility requirements in place in 2010 until 2019.

At that point, Maine was still providing coverage to 19- and 20-year-olds with incomes 156 percent or more under the federal poverty level. The Legislature approved the plan to end coverage for 19- and 20-year-olds, which was estimated to save $3.7 million in state funds and $6.9 million in federal matching funds.

The federal government held that such a change in the state’s Medicaid law would violate the maintenance of effort provision of the Affordable Care Act and threatened with an elimination of all Medicaid funding. LePage claimed the feds were forcing Maine’s hand with an unfunded mandate and filed a lawsuit against the federal government.

A U.S. Appeals Court on Monday ruled against the state. Medicaid coverage for roughly 6,000 low-income 19- and 20-year-olds in Maine has remained intact during the legal battle between state and federal government.

Maine Attorney General Janet Mills refused to represent the state in the case, citing her agreement with the federal government’s interpretation of the law. LePage designated $100,000 from his executive contingency fund to pay for outside counsel to represent the state in court.

Information about how much of that $100,000 has been spent so far was unavailable Tuesday afternoon.

Follow Mario Moretto on Twitter at @riocarmine.

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