Maine must follow the voter-approved Medicaid expansion law and submit a plan by June 11 that starts the process for providing the health coverage for thousands of low-income people in the state, a Superior Court judge has ruled, the Press Herald reported on Tuesday.
The court said the Maine Department of Health and Human Services and the administration of Republican Gov. Paul LePage is required to meet the deadline to file the state plan amendment with the federal government.
The controversy started when Maine voters approved Medicaid expansion, making it the first state to do so via 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.
After his administration missed the April 3 deadline to send a plan to the federal government, several advocacy groups and individuals sued the administration, asking the court to order the state to comply with the will of the voters, The Hill reported.
In her ruling, Superior Court Justice Michaela Murphy disagreed with the state’s position that the executive branch does not have to file a plan amendment until legislative appropriations to fund the expansion have been approved.
The expansion will open up the program to Mainers who earn 138 percent of the federal poverty level – $16,753 for an individual or $34,638 for a family of four.
LePage’s office said he is reviewing the ruling, according to the Boston Globe. The governor has insisted that lawmakers fund the state share of Medicaid expansion without implementing tax hikes.
“Today is a victory for the 70,000 Mainers who stand to gain coverage from Medicaid expansion and for everyone who believes that health care should be a right for all, not just a privilege for a wealthy few,” Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez said.
“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.”