A low-income advocacy organization asked a state judge Thursday to order the LePage administration to submit to a plan to expand Medicaid.
A proposal to expand Medicaid to provide health care to 70,000 Mainers was approved by a statewide referendum that didn’t provide a funding source. The Legislature adjourned earlier this month without producing a funding plan that’s acceptable to Republican Gov. Paul LePage.
The administration missed the April 3 deadline for filing the plan with the federal government to start the process of expanding the government-funded health care program.
“Tell the commissioner he has to comply with the law,” James Kilbreth, an attorney representing Maine Equal Justice Partners, said Thursday.
“The commissioner cannot do anything until there’s a substantial appropriation,” said Patrick Strawbridge, a private attorney hired after Democratic Attorney General Janet Mills declined to represent the Maine Department of Health and Human Services on the issue.
Superior Court Justice Michaela Murphy said she’d rule as soon as possible on the matter, but didn’t provide a specific timetable.
LePage vetoed Medicaid expansion proposals five times before state voters approved the expansion in a referendum in 2016. But that didn’t end the contentious dispute.
Kilbreth said there are enough funds in the state’s Medicaid account to get through the current budget ending in June 2019. He also said there is more than $140 million in unallocated funds that the state could draw from at any time.
LePage said it would cost taxpayers about $50 million in fiscal 2019 and require hiring 100 workers. The costs would grow from there, he said.
Accepting Medicaid expansion would also unlock more than $500 million per year in federal funds.