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Update: A second accuser emerges with misconduct allegations against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavenaugh. Also on the Monday rundown: We take you to a state where more than 60,000 kids are chronically absent from school; and we'll let you know why the rural digital divide can be a two-fold problem.

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Maine Healthcare Advocates Sue to Enforce Medicaid Expansion

Medicaid expansion would help an estimated 70,000 Maine residents access health-care services. (Parentingupstream/Pixabay)
Medicaid expansion would help an estimated 70,000 Maine residents access health-care services. (Parentingupstream/Pixabay)
May 2, 2018

AUGUSTA, Maine - Supporters of Medicaid expansion in Maine are asking the courts to force Gov, Paul LePage to implement the program approved by voters last year.

LePage vetoed legislative attempts to enact the expansion, which advocates say would help an estimate 70,000 Mainers access health care. So, last year voters took the measure on directly, approving the expansion by a wide margin. But the governor has yet to file a state plan with the U.S. Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which was due on April 3.

According to Robyn Merrill, executive director of Maine Equal Justice Partners, another deadline is looming.

"The law is clear that people are eligible for coverage under Medicaid expansion as of July 2," she said. "So, on July 2, people will have a right to health care - and they will have legal recourse if they're denied coverage."

LePage has insisted that the Legislature needs to fund the expansion, about $45 million in the first year, without raising taxes or using the state's revenue reserve. However, Merrill said Medicaid expansion would bring significant amounts of money into the state.

"There's a fair amount of federal funding that will come into Maine, over $500 million a year," she said, "and in order to draw down those federal funds, filing the state plan, then, is part of that process."

Under the plan, state residents earning up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level, about $25,000 a year for a family of four, would be eligible for Medicaid.

If the lawsuit filed Monday in State Superior Court is successful, the court could order LePage to implement the expansion. Merrill noted that without coverage, each of the five petitioners in the suit faces delays in getting critical medical care.

"It's not exaggerating to say that it's life or death for some people," she said. "People just can't afford to wait any longer for the health care they need."

More information is online at mejp.org.

Andrea Sears, Public News Service - ME