LePage presses to delay Maine Medicaid expansion until out of office

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Maine's soon-to-depart governor continues to fight Medicaid expansion despite plans by his replacement to immediately implement the program.

Gov. Paul LePage filed a motion last week asking for a stay of a Nov. 21 decision by Superior Court Justice Michaela Murphy that ordered Medicaid expansion commence on Dec. 5. Murphy ruled that the LePage administration must follow the expansion law, which voters approved in a 2017 referendum.

“Although the governor may believe implementation to be unwise and disagree with the [expansion law] as a matter of policy, he may not ignore the will of the people and refuse to take any action toward accomplishing the policy objectives of the Act,” Judge Murphy wrote in her ruling.

The term-limited LePage, a Republican who will be replaced in January by Janet Mills, a Democrat, has fought the Medicaid expansion since voter approval last year arguing that implementation would cause fiscal stress to the state from adding an estimated 70,000 to 90,000 more people into the program. The Republican governor vetoed a bill in June to fund Medicaid expansion with surplus monies and tobacco settlement funds. He proposed taxing the state’s hospitals to fund the program, which was met with stiff resistance by the hospital industry.

“This administration believes strongly as a matter of principle in the constitutional arguments we have been making to the court,” said LePage press secretary Julie Rabinowitz in a statement Monday.

The LePage resistance to Medicaid expansion will become moot in January. Mills, who has been Maine attorney general since 2013, has vowed to implement the expansion as soon as she takes office as governor in January. She defeated Republican Shawn Moody, who campaigned in opposition to the expansion law.

“Medicaid expansion is the law of the land, and regardless of what the current Administration does between now and January, Governor-elect Mills will immediately take steps to implement it as soon as she assumes office, as the people of Maine have demanded,” Mills spokesman Scott Ogden said in a statement.

Moody’s Investors Service projected in a late 2017 analysis that the Medicaid expansion would cost the state around $55 million when fully implemented in 2021. The state last expanded Medicaid in 2002 before the LePage administration curtailed it in 2011citing impact to the state’s liquidity and reserves.

Maine has general obligation bond ratings of Aa2 from Moody’s and AA from S&P Global Ratings.

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Healthcare-related court cases Healthcare industry State budgets Paul LePage Janet Mills State of Maine Maine