Crown Politics

It’s a day of reckoning for Medicaid expansion in Maine

Good morning from Augusta, where this is the day a lot of people have been waiting for when it comes to Medicaid expansion — or dreading, as it may be for proponents worried that Gov. Paul LePage’s administration won’t follow through on last year’s expansion referendum.

It’s April 3. According to the citizen-initiated law passed by 59 percent of voters last November, it’s the deadline for the Department of Health and Human Services to submit what’s known as a state plan amendment to the federal government regarding how Maine will move forward with Medicaid expansion under the provisions of the Affordable Care Act.

There’s no indication it will happen. Quite to the contrary, in fact. The Republican governor has said for months that his administration won’t do anything to accommodate expansion unless the Legislature finds a way to pay for it in the long term without tax increases or using any money out of the state’s rainy day fund. LePage also demands that waitlists of elderly and disabled people waiting for social services be eliminated before expansion.

Democrats say there’s no need for a bill to provide funding because the money is already there. Though they have been asking for and not receiving financial data about the state’s Medicaid fund, supporters say there is enough money for the first year of expansion already in state coffers. In January, Assistant House Majority Leader Jared Golden, D-Lewiston, told the Bangor Daily News that there would be no battle over expansion this session, as least as far as a debate over a formal legislative proposal. Rather, he said there is enough money to fund expansion through May of next year and that LePage can expect to be sued if he doesn’t comply.

There’s disagreement about the cost. The Legislature’s fiscal office has said covering the newly eligible population will eventually cost some $55 million a year after accounting for $28 million in savings because of people moving to Medicaid from other public social service programs. The LePage administration has said the state’s annual cost will likely be at least double that and ruinous to the state’s budget.

The Fiddlehead Focus/St. John Valley Times is pleased to feature content from our sister company, Bangor Daily News. To read the rest of “It’s a day of reckoning for Medicaid expansion in Maine,” an article by contributing Bangor Daily News staff writer , please follow this link to the BDN online.

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