Health activists file lawsuit over Maine Medicaid expansion

Health activists file lawsuit over Maine Medicaid expansion

Health care activists have filed a lawsuit against Maine’s Department of Health and Human Services and its commissioner over the failure to expand Medicaid after the state’s voters approved it in November 2017.

According to the petition, which was posted online by one of the groups named in the lawsuit, Maine Gov. Paul LePage repeatedly vetoed Medicaid expansion prior to its passage as a ballot initiative. It adds that DHHS Commissioner, Ricker Hamilton, didn’t meet the deadline for submitting the state’s plan by the April 3 deadline.

“The Mainers for Health Care litigation team filed a lawsuit today in state court to hold Governor LePage accountable for his inaction and failure to implement the will of Maine voters,” Robyn Merrill, Maine Equal Justice Partners executive director, said in an email. “It’s simple. The law the voters passed last November clearly requires the Governor to take steps to implement Medicaid expansion to get health care to 70,000 people. There is no excuse for his failure to follow the law.”

When asked for comment on the petition filed Monday, the governor’s office said it was unable to comment on active litigation. The governor’s office communications director Peter Steele via email instead pointed to a letter LePage sent to legislative leadership in December.

The letter outlines four “principles” the state legislature must follow while finding funding for the measures, including “no tax increases on Maine families and businesses,” and “no use of other one-time funding mechanisms or budget gimmicks,” among other things.

“While I remain adamantly opposed to the policy of expanding Medicaid because it threatens our state’s financial stability, the legislature is allowing it to become the law. You, the Legislature now must do your job to fund it as quickly as possible so the Executive branch can do its job: execute the law. But I will not implement it without adequate funding,” LePage’s letter reads.

Steele said LePage’s position has not changed.

CNN previously reported that the Medicaid expansion measure would grant at least 70,000 low-income Maine residents with health insurance.