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Politics

Medicaid Battle Heads To State Supreme Court

A lawsuit that seeks to force Maine's health commissioner to implement Medicaid expansion is now before the state Supreme Judicial Court.

The LePage administration has appealed a lower court's order to start the process. But consumer advocacy groups have filed arguments against further delays for the law that's supposed to take effect in less than two weeks.

In early June, a Superior Court judge ordered the LePage administration to file a plan for Medicaid expansion with the federal government. The LePage administration asked for a stay of that order while it appealed to the Maine Supreme Judicial Court.

Last Friday, Superior Court Justice Michaela Murphy denied the request for a stay and wrote in her decision that "the executive branch's refusal to act and follow the will of the people...has the potential to engender disrespect for duly enacted laws."

The LePage administration appealed that decision Monday. That means Maine's highest court will now decide both issues: first, whether to approve the request for a stay, and ultimately, whether to uphold the Medicaid expansion order.

Jack Comart of Maine Equal Justice Partners filed written arguments on Tuesday.

“Well our position is that the delay puts the state at greater risk of not receiving federal funds on a timely basis, because the program is supposed to start July 2nd,” Comart says.

Comart says he expects the Court to make a decision on the request for a stay this week. A timetable for arguments on the larger issue of implementation has not been set.

Voters approved Medicaid expansion in a referendum last November. An estimated 70,000 Mainers would get coverage, and the federal government would cover about 90 percent of the cost.

This story was originally published June 19, 2018 at 4:37 p.m. ET.