September 22, 2018
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LePage says he’ll deny applicants until Medicaid expansion is funded

Troy R. Bennett | BDN
Troy R. Bennett | BDN
Gov. Paul LePage delivers his final State of the State address before a joint session of the Maine Legislature in Augusta, Feb. 13, 2018.
Marina Villeneuve, The Associated Press
Updated:

AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) — Republican Gov. Paul LePage said he’ll continue denying applications under a voter-approved Medicaid expansion until lawmakers provide funding under his terms.

Pro-Medicaid expansion advocates who are suing to force Maine to roll-out voter-approved Medicaid expansion have encouraged Mainers to apply for Medicaid expansion this summer. But LePage said the plan is to deny those applications “until they’re funded.”

“All they got to do is give me the money and everything’s going to be fine,” he told The Associated Press. “I don’t know why the Legislature refuses to acknowledge that Medicaid is not free.”

Nearly three out of five Maine voters last November supported expanding Medicaid to provide health care coverage to an additional 70,000 to 80,000 low-income residents starting July 2.

The LePage administration submitted a Medicaid expansion plan this month because of a court order. But LePage also urged the federal government to reject the plan.

LePage’s administration previously declined to comment on its plans for handling Medicaid applicants. Advocacy group Maine Equal Justice Partners is suing the governor’s administration and has shared a copy of a letter from a Mainer denied Medicaid expansion.

The group’s executive director Robyn Merrill has said the group hopes that Mainers who have applied for Medicaid expansion could eventually receive retroactive coverage.

Medicaid expansion could eventually send roughly $500 million in annual federal funding to Maine. But Maine’s voter-approved law doesn’t include a way for Maine to pay $54 million to $62 million for its annual share of expansion after projected savings.

This summer LePage vetoed a bill to hire over 100 new staffers to roll-out Medicaid expansion and use budgetary surplus and one-time tobacco settlement funds to make sure Maine has enough money for its share of expansion’s first year.

LePage has warned lawmakers that they couldn’t raise taxes, rely on budgetary gimmicks or dip into the state’s rainy day fund to fund Maine’s share of expansion. Critics, including Democrats, say the governor has no legal justification for such demands.

The governor informally floated the idea of raising taxes on hospitals to pay for Maine’s share of expansion, but there was no legislative hearing. The governor told AP that he brought the idea up to lawmakers, but they rejected it.

“They shot it down,” LePage said. “I asked them. They said, ‘If you put it up, we’re going to kill it.’ So I didn’t put it up.”

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