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Court Rules That Maine Must Expand Medicaid Program As Approved By Voters

Maine Public staff
Medicaid expansion supporters rally outside the Maine State House February 13, 2018.

A Superior Court judge has ruled that the LePage administration must expand Medicaid.

The decision, issued Monday, orders the state to submit a plan to the federal government within a week. Advocates say that means enrollment should begin on July 2, for the 70,000 people who are eligible.

The decision is a major victory for Maine Equal Justice Partners, one of the plaintiffs in the case, who successfully brought the issue of Medicaid expansion to the ballot last November, where it was overwhelmingly approved by voters.

“The decision is what we wanted, exactly,” says Jack Comart, the organization’s litigation director.

Justice Michaela Murphy ruled that the state must submit a plan to the federal government to expand Medicaid by June 11. The plan was originally due in April, but the LePage administration had argued it couldn’t submit a plan until it had funding — and Gov. Paul LePage placed several caveats on exactly how lawmakers could fund it, forbidding any tax increases or use of rainy day funds.

In her decision, Murphy did not rule on where funding should come from. Attorney Jamie Kilbreth, who represented Maine Equal Justice Partners in the case, says that’s the job of the Legislature — and he says Maine has the money.

“The nonpartisan staff of the Appropriations Committee has determined there is funding for all of the people currently on Medicaid, plus this new group, through early June 2019,” he says.

To Kilbreth, that means that the estimated 70,000 people who are eligible for Medicaid should be able to start enrolling on July 2, which is 180 days after the effective date of the law, which was at the beginning of the year.

“The administration will have no excuse not to start covering people, as long as they’re eligible,” he says.

A spokeswoman for LePage said he’s reviewing the court decision.