The legal battle over implementation of the voter-approved expansion of Medicaid is heating up.
Advocates for expansion say Gov. Paul LePage and the Department of Health and Human Services are acting in bad faith and want the court to step in.
Maine Public senior political correspondent Mal Leary spoke with Maine Things Considered host Ed Morin.
Morin: What are the advocates asking the court to do?
Leary: Maine Equal Justice Partners, through their attorneys, are asking the Superior Court to find the state in contempt of the court order to file the expansion plan with federal regulators. They argue the governor’s letter accompanying the plan, asking that the plan be denied, shows he’s not following the court order. They’re asking that the court appoint a receiver to take over the whole process of filing the application with the federal government and to file the plan for federal consideration by the end of this month. They have filed a motion to expedite the ruling — really what they’re asking is that Justice Michaela Murphy rule from the bench on their motion.
That seems unusual, that the advocates want the court to bypass the executive branch with this independent, third-party receiver filing the expansion. What’s the rush to get the filing by the end of this month?
As you recall, it took a court case to get the :ePage administration to file an expansion plan in the first place. The Supreme Court got involved. They sent the case back to the Superior Court to hold hearings and develop the facts of the dispute. The Superior Court ordered the filing with the federal government, and the governor argues he complied with that because he did file a plan for expansion — even though he also asked them to reject it at the same time. What’s driving this request for expedited action is that under federal rules, if a plan is not properly filed by the end of a quarter, even if it is eventually adopted, it will not cover any claims during this quarter by those that are later found to be eligible for coverage. So we’re talking about the potential for a number of people that should be getting benefits in this period of time that we’ve been in not being able to get them simply because of a glitch in the rules.
So what’s the next step in this legal battle?
Next week, on Sept. 24, Justice Murphy will hold a telephone conference with the various lawyers that are representing both the advocates and the governor’s office. She may choose to rule then on the advocates’ motion for a receiver and expedited action, or she may not. And of course there may be other motions filed between now and then that the justice may want to consider. And Justice Murphy will ask for written arguments in the matter as well as this whole matter proceeds forward.
This interview has been edited for clarity.