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LePage Administration Clarifies Governor's MaineCare Remarks

Mal Leary

The office of Gov. Paul LePage has issued what it calls some “clarifications” of statements LePage made about the state’s Medicaid program while taking part as a guest on Monday’s radio call-in program Maine Calling.

The governor has vetoed six different proposals to expand Medicaid, known as MaineCare, since 2013. But when confronted with the fact that those vetoes have left some 24,000 Mainers without access to coverage, LePage offered this defense:

“If that’s correct, then the formula that the federal government has put in is wrong,” LePage said. “Let me tell you why: The state of Maine (MaineCare) accepts people up to 200% of poverty. Medicaid is up to 138% of poverty. Maine does not get the extended benefit of the 90-10%. Everybody thinks we do. We don’t, we never did, we never will. The reason why is we expanded back in 2002.”

That’s a lot of technical jargon. But the governor essentially argued that because the state expanded eligibility of its MaineCare program in 2002, it would not qualify for 100% federal reimbursement for the first three years of expansion and 90% thereafter.

As the administration now admits, that’s not quite correct. It’s true that if the state were to expand Medicaid, it would receive only 62% reimbursement for enrolled parents who earn between 100 percent and 138% of the federal poverty level. But the state would qualify for the full reimbursement for the rest of the expansion population. That’s roughly 60,000 Mainers. It also means that people who earn up to $15,856 a year would qualify for MaineCare if the state expanded.

Now many of those people neither qualify for MaineCare, nor the heavily subsidized coverage available in the health care law. LePage appeared to question the existence of this coverage gap when confronted by a caller. But it exists, and, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation, 24,000 Mainers don’t have coverage because of it.

When Congress passed the Affordable Care Act, it made Medicaid expansion mandatory. But The U.S. Supreme Court struck down that provision in 2012, leaving the decision to the states. Maine is one of 19 states that has thus far opted out. And it is one of the 19 states with a coverage gap.