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LePage Administration Files Response to Lawsuit from Activists Trying To Force Medicaid Expansion with No Funding
May 17, 2018
For Immediate Release: Thursday, May 17, 2018
Contact: Julie Rabinowitz, Press Secretary, 207-287-2531
AUGUSTA—Governor Paul R. LePage has issued a statement about the administration’s response to the lawsuit seeking to compel the Department of Health and Human Services to expand Medicaid—despite the Legislature’s failure to provide any funding for its hundreds of millions of dollars in ongoing costs. The administration filed the response Monday in Superior Court.
“Now that Medicaid Expansion is the law, it is my responsibility to implement it, and I will. But until they adequately fund it, there is nothing we can do,” said Governor LePage. “Before we can proceed with expansion, DHHS needs both the staff to implement it and the money to pay the bills that will come due when the state plan amendment is approved."
The filing, a copy of which is attached, notes:
The plan the petitioners are seeking would commit the state to spending tens of millions of dollars in unappropriated money in the next fiscal year alone—and hundreds of millions of dollars over the course of the next two biennial budget periods.
It would also require the hiring of more than 100 new employees to assist with enrollment and claims processing, at an additional cost of more than $2 million per year.
The referendum provided no funding mechanism (such as a tax), and voters were specifically told that further appropriations would be necessary to implement expansion. The Secretary of State’s Citizen Guide to the referendum stated that “legislation will be required to provide the additional appropriations and allocations.”
The petitioners themselves acknowledged funding is necessary before Medicaid can be expanded. Robyn Merrill of one of the petitioners, Maine Equal Justice Partners, said that “appropriating funding for the administrative costs of implementing Medicaid expansion is an important step in the process.”
Another one of petitioner’s representatives, Kate Ende of Consumers for Affordable Health Care, testified “in support of LD 837 . . . that would provide funding for administrative costs necessary to implement Medicaid expansion.”
The Legislature adjourned without passing any appropriation for Medicaid expansion.
It is the job of the Legislature—not the courts—to appropriate money, and the order Petitioners are seeking would obligate the state to pay an increasing share of the costs. Indeed, several state laws prohibit state officials from making a commitment to spend non-appropriated funds, and even impose criminal penalties for such acts.
For these reasons, the referendum should not be interpreted to require the commissioner of DHHS to proceed without the necessary appropriation. If it were read that way, a court order committing the state to make the necessary appropriation would violate the Maine Constitution’s separation of powers.
The petitioners have also miscalculated the effective date of the Act, lessening the alleged emergency they claim arises from the failure of DHHS to implement expansion without the necessary funding.
Argument is scheduled for Thursday, May 24 at 10 a.m. in Superior Court in Portland.