AUGUSTA (WGME) – Governor Paul LePage’s office is reviewing a new court ruling ordering his administration to follow the will of the voters and expand health care coverage for low-income Mainers.
Advocates say the ruling is a relief but many are anticipating an appeal.
In a 13-page decision, a judge sided with advocacy groups that said the law is the law and ordered the LePage administration to submit a plan to the federal government by Monday.
“We were elated and then, I think, also relieved in just recognizing how long people have been waiting for healthcare,” said Robyn Merrill, executive director for Maine Equal Justice Partners, one of several organizations that sued the state for blocking a Medicaid expansion that would extend coverage to at least 70,000 low-income Mainers.
The lawsuit was filed in april, after the department of health and human services failed to submit paperwork by the required deadline.
“The law is clear. People are eligible as of July 2 but the administration hasn’t taken any steps forward,” Merrill said.
A spokesman for the governor would only say the decision is under review.
In an April, LePage said the Legislature had to fund expansion before he would implement it.
“I do believe the law of the land is that we expanded Medicaid through a people’s initiative and they gotta fund it. I’m all in and now I sound like a Democrat but I mean that’s the law, so figure it out and fund it and let’s move on,” the governor said.
The Medicaid expansion was among the issues that remained unresolved when lawmakers adjourned but Rep. Drew Gattine, D-Westbrook, who sits on the Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee, said the money is there.
“Well, I think the Legislature is perfectly willing to give the governor anything that he thinks he needs but we have the money to do this right now so, to me, that always struck me as a hollow excuse,” Gattine said.
Maine Republicans did not return requests for comment on Tuesday.
Meanwhile, Merrill is stressing urgency.
“This is really literally a life or death situation for some people,” she said.
Appeal or not, she encourages anyone who may be eligible for benefits to start applying on July 2.