Court orders Maine’s Republican governor to expand Medicaid already

Court orders Maine’s Republican governor to expand Medicaid already

A judge Monday ordered Republican Gov. Paul LePage's administration to quickly implement the state's voter-mandated Medicaid expansion, which LePage had tried to block.

LePage vetoed Medicaid expansion proposals five times before ME in 2016 became the first state where voters approved Medicaid expansion in a referendum.

"The governor can not ignore the law", Robyn Merrill, executive director of Maine Equal Justice Partners, said in a prepared statement. Kennebec County Superior Court Justice Michaela Murphy ultimately sided with advocates, ordering the state to comply with the November referendum.

The Bangor Daily News reported that a LePage spokeswoman said the governor was reviewing the decision, but did not indicate whether he would appeal to the Maine Supreme Judicial Court.

Yet fed-up voters demanded it in a ballot measure in November.

LePage's Department of Health and Human Services argued that the courts shouldn't weigh in on a legislative spending decision. The governor has called for lawmakers to fund the state share of Medicaid expansion under his terms, which includes no tax hikes.

"The court is not persuaded that the executive branch is excused from clear statutory obligations by the legislature's failure to follow through with legislative obligations - as defined by the executive branch, " she said. An estimated 70,000 people with incomes up to 138% of the federal poverty level would qualify for coverage under the Affordable Care Act-authorized expansion. Just days after, LePage and state Republicans vowed to delay the voter-approved law. "Thanks to today's ruling, Gov. Paul LePage will finally be forced to respect the will of Maine's voters, who voted overwhelmingly to expand Medicaid last November". She also rejected the state agency's argument that it couldn't enter into a binding contract with the CMS to expand Medicaid without funding appropriated by the Legislature for the expansion.

The Maine Equal Justice Partners, a nonprofit legal aid group, sued after Mr. LePage missed the ballot measure's April 3 deadline to outline the state's expansion plans to federal officials.

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