October 19, 2019
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Mills reverses LePage push for Medicaid work requirements

Troy R. Bennett | BDN
Troy R. Bennett | BDN
Gov. Janet Mills

AUGUSTA, Maine — Gov. Janet Mills on Tuesday pulled Maine out of a waiver championed by her Republican predecessor that would have made most Medicaid recipients conform to work requirements and pay monthly premiums to remain in the program.

It was no surprise as Mills, a Democrat, has worked for most of her 20 days in office to reverse Gov. Paul LePage on health coverage. In the first week of her administration, she opened voter-approved Medicaid expansion to qualified recipients after it had been stalled by LePage.

As LePage’s tenure wound down before Christmas, the administration of President Donald Trump approved a waiver making Maine one of the first seven states allowed to apply work requirements to Medicaid. Certain states have used waivers under the Republican president to restrict the program.

The changes would allow Maine to require many recipients to work 80 hours and pay up to $40 in premiums monthly. However, the waiver terms allow Maine to pull out. That always looked like what Mills would do, though she never committed to doing so until Tuesday.

In a Tuesday letter to Seema Verma, the administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, Mills said the state wouldn’t accept the waiver terms, saying they “would leave more Maine people uninsured without improving their participation in the workforce.”

When he announced the approval, LePage said the changes would allow Maine to “continue expanding our available workforce” and “focus our resources on those individuals who need it most.” On Tuesday, he said in a Facebook post that Mills is “ending welfare reform.”

The work requirement concerned advocates. Arkansas saw nearly 17,000 of the roughly 250,000 people in the program lose coverage between September and November after work requirements were applied to its expansion population, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

In a statement, Mills’ office said her administration will increase the number of Medicaid recipients who participate in work programs “in the coming months” through the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families and food stamp programs and the implementation of a new financial aid program established by the Legislature in 2017.

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