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  • LePage veto puts 70,000 at risk - healthcare advocates encourage sign up despite LePage actions

      By Ramona du Houx

    Maine Equal Justice Partners today encouraged Mainers who believe that they are eligible for health care coverage under the state’s Medicaid expansion law to file an application with the Department of Health and Human Services.

    “Medicaid expansion – and coverage for more than 70,000 Mainers – is the law,” said Kathy Kilrain del Rio, policy analyst for MEJP. “People who believe that they might be eligible for health care coverage should file an application, which will help to protect their rights to coverage.”

    Under the Medicaid expansion law, newly eligible Mainers can begin to apply for coverage beginning July 2, 2018. 

    Despite court orders to the contrary and funding from the Legislature, Gov. Paul LePage and his administration have not taken steps necessary to implement Medicaid expansion. 

    LePage’s willingness to ignore the law means that it is unlikely that newly eligible applicants will receive health care coverage immediately, but by filing an application they may become eligible for retroactive coverage.

    Maine Equal Justice Partners has developed an online tool available at www.mejp.org to help people determine if they are eligible for coverage through expansion.

    Mainers who believe they might be eligible can also call Maine Equal Justice’s hotline at 1-866-626-7059 for help with applying and to understand their rights.

    “Today, by law, more than 70,000 Mainers should have new access to health insurance and to the promise of a longer and healthier life that goes with it. My job, with each patient, is to help them achieve health. Health insurance saves lives,”Dr. Renee Fay-LeBlanc, chief medical officer at Greater Portland Health said.

    Here’s where the process stands.

    In November, voters overwhelmingly approved Medicaid expansion, but LePage refused to implement it. In April, a group of advocates and impacted individuals sued to force the LePage administration to implement the law.

    On June 4, the Maine Superior Court agreed with the people and ordered the LePage administration to begin the process of implementation by filing a State Plan Amendment, which allows the state to draw down federal funding, 90 percent of the total cost, to support expansion.

    On June 20, The Maine Supreme Judicial Court put that order on hold until July 18, when it will hear oral arguments on the administration’s request to hold off on submitting the state plan until the appeal is decided. That order does not impact the July 2 date in the Medicaid expansion law. 

    Also on June 20, the Legislature passed legislation to fund the full cost of expansion based on the cost estimated by the governor, taking away his last excuse for blocking access to health care. 

    Despite LePage’s promised veto of the funding bill, the funds are available to provide health coverage to people who are eligible until at least May 2019. The law the voters passed is still binding.

    Importantly, the Legislature will have an opportunity to override LePage’s veto.

    For more information about the Maine Equal Justice Partners, visit: www.mejp.org.