PORTLAND, Maine — Portland Mayor Michael Brennan and mayors of five other Maine cities have formally protested to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services about the state’s attempt to eliminate Medicaid coverage for more than 26,000 low-income residents.
“The elimination of insurance coverage for thousands of Maine people, particularly during this time of recession, presents significant hardships not just to the families affected but also to the municipalities in which they reside,” said the letter signed by Brennan and the mayors of South Portland, Biddeford, Saco, Waterville and Westbrook.
This spring, the Legislature passed a budget proposed by Gov. Paul LePage that was based on cuts to MaineCare, the state’s Medicaid program.
If enacted, the cuts would save the state $20 million by eliminating coverage for 21,000 low-income parents and 19- and 20-year-olds, as well as 5,300 seniors and people with disabilities.
The cuts would require Maine to receive a waiver of federal standards for Medicaid eligibility — a waiver that has not been granted to any state.
But the LePage administration has argued that in upholding the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, better known as “Obamacare,” the U.S. Supreme Court made some eligibility requirements void.
The governor has submitted his MaineCare plan to HHS for approval, but the federal agency may not respond until the end of October, according to reports published Friday. The eligibility cuts are scheduled to take effect Oct. 1.
Meanwhile, Brennan and his fellow mayors claim that Maine is still bound by law to maintain eligibility for Medicaid recipients.
“While the focus of this debate has been in Washington, D.C., and at the State House, it is important to note that it’s the cities and towns of Maine that will have to bear the burden and address the impact on the health and lives of our residents,” Brennan said in a written statement.
“We represent the front line and the costs associated with these cuts will be paid for by our residents, our hospitals and our businesses whether through increases in charitable care, rising health insurance premiums or by taxing our safety net with more families turning to city hall for help.”