Judge orders LePage administration to start Medicaid expansion

Judge orders LePage administration to start Medicaid expansion

Murphy point by point rejected arguments put forward by the LePage administration explaining why it had not submitted plans with the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services within 90 days of the November 7 referendum vote approving Medicaid expansion, which was intended provide health care coverage to an estimated 70,000 low-income Mainers starting July 2. The federal government hasn't signaled whether it'll approve it.

In November, 59 percent of voters approved Medicaid expansion, making ME the first state to expand the program through a citizen-initiated referendum.

But LePage continued to oppose it and said he would not implement the expansion until the legislature voted to fund it.

"The governor can not ignore the law", said Robyn Merrill, executive director of Maine Equal Justice Partners, according to The New York Times.

Maine Equal Justice Partners is a civil legal aid organization that represents Maine people with low income in areas of economic security, including access to health care.

However, Murphy's decision could be appealed. A LePage spokeswoman said the governor's office is reviewing Murphy's ruling. "This is the first step on the road to get health care for Mainers who really need it".

The Affordable Care Act gave states the option to allow citizens with income up to 138 percent of the poverty level - $16,642 for an individual, $24,600 for a family of four - to qualify for Medicaid, which is paid for by states and the federal government. Superior Court Justice Michaela Murphy disagreed with such arguments in her court order Monday.

"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", wrote the judge, who was appointed by former Gov. John E. Baldacci in 2007 and re-appointed by Mr. LePage in 2015. "The court concludes that the commissioner's complete failure to act can not be considered substantial compliance with (the referendum vote)". Seventeen states have refused to expand Medicaid coverage under the ACA.

The judge ordered the administration to submit a plan by June 11 updating the terms of its Medicaid program, which was supposed to offer coverage to new enrollees July 2. Last week, state officials announced the measure will be added to the November ballot.

Although LePage did not react to the court decision Monday, he and his allies have acknowledged that Medicaid expansion is law. The governor has always been a staunch opponent of expansion, vetoing legislation five times.

Lawyers for the petitioners have argued that there are already enough funds in the state's Medicaid account to get through the current budget biennium, which ends in June 2019.

This is why it's likelier that Utah will expand Medicaid by ballot box.

This marks the second victory in under a week for Medicaid expansion advocates.

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