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June 5, 2018

Court sets June 11 deadline for LePage to implement Medicaid expansion

Courtesy / Matthew Gagnon, Wikimedia Commons
Courtesy / Matthew Gagnon, Wikimedia Commons
Superior Court Justice Michaela Murphy issued a 13-page ruling Monday that directs the LePage administration to file a state plan to the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services by June 11 to initiate expanded Medicaid coverage.

Superior Court Justice Michaela Murphy minced no words in her 13-page ruling issued Monday, which orders Gov. Paul LePage's administration to begin implementing the Medicaid expansion approved by Maine voters last November.

Murphy point by point rejected arguments put forward by the LePage administration explaining why it had not submitted plans with the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services within 90 days of the Nov. 7 referendum vote approving Medicaid expansion, which was intended provide health care coverage to an estimated 70,000 low-income Mainers starting July 2.

"The Court is not persuaded that the executive branch is excused from clear statutory obligations by the legislature's failure to follow through with legislative obligations — as defined by the executive branch," Murphy wrote, alluding to LePage's stipulations that lawmakers must "fully fund" the expansion in ways he approved of before proceeding with the expansion. "The Court concludes that the "complete failure to act" by [Commissioner of Maine Department Health and Human Services Ricker Hamilton] "cannot be considered substantial compliance" with the voter-approved statute.

Murphy ordered the LePage administration to file a state plan to the federal CMS by June 11 to initiate the expanded Medicaid coverage.

The Bangor Daily News reported that a LePage spokeswoman said the governor was reviewing the decision, but did not indicate whether he would appeal to the Maine Supreme Judicial Court.

Advocates: 'Governor cannot ignore the law'

"The governor cannot ignore the law," said Robyn Merrill, executive director for Maine Equal Justice Partners, said in a statement. "Maine voters did not make a request at the ballot, they passed a law, and laws are not optional. Today's ruling is good news for more than 70,000 Mainers who the law says can sign up for health care on July 2."

Maine Equal Justice Partners was joined by Consumers for Affordable Health Care, Maine Primary Care Association, Penobscot Community Health Care and five individuals in filing the lawsuit against Maine Department of Health and Human Services on April 30.

The pro bono legal team in the expansion case was led by James Kilbreth and David Kallin of Drummond Woodsum, and included Jack Comart of Maine Equal Justice and Charlie Dingman of PretiFlaherty.

Maine Equal Justice Partners is a civil legal aid organization that represents Maine people with low income in areas of economic security, including access to health care.

Maine would become the 33rd state, plus the District of Columbia, to expand Medicaid, Modern Healthcare reported.

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