New Maine governor reverses predecessor, expands Medicaid

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Maine Gov. Janet Mills signed an executive order to move forward with voter-approved Medicaid expansion as she gears up to submit a funding plan for the health care initiative her predecessor had blocked.

The Democrat, in one of her moves after assuming office, directed the Maine Department of Health and Human Services to swiftly implement Medicaid expansion more than a year after it was approved with 59% support in a November 2017 referendum.

Mills’ predecessor, Republican Paul LePage, fought the expansion implementation on grounds that it would harm the state fiscally by adding more than 70,000 people into the program.

“I am directing my administration to begin implementing Medicaid expansion as quickly and as efficiently as possible so that we can help more Maine people access the health care they need,” said Mills in a statement. “Expanding health care and lowering the cost for Maine people and small businesses is a top priority of my administration, and I look forward to working with the Legislature to achieve that goal.”

Mills told reporters last Thursday there is enough money to fund Medicaid expansion through a $35 million tobacco settlement she proposed as attorney general last year. LePage vetoed a bill last June that would have funded expansion through tobacco settlement funds and surplus monies saying a more sustainable funding solution was needed.

The executive order directs the DHHS to work with the state Legislature to identify sustainable short-term and long-term funding sources for Medicaid Expansion. She is planning to submit a funding plan as part of the two-year budget proposal to be released later this month.

A late 2017 analysis by Moody’s Investors Service projected that Medicaid expansion would cost the state around $55 million when fully implemented in 2021.

In addition to the executive order, Mills sent a letter last week to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Department asking for approval of the expansion and to apply retroactively to July 2, 2018 when it was scheduled to take effect. LePage sought to slow down Medicaid expansion implementation until his last day in office on Dec. 31, 2018, even after a 6-1 ruling by the Maine Supreme Court last August ordered the Republican governor’s administration to file a plan.

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

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Healthcare industry State budgets Janet Mills Paul LePage State of Maine Maine