Maine Republican Gov. Paul LePage’s administration spent nearly $53,000 of taxpayer money in a legal battle to remove low-income young adults from the state’s Medicaid rolls, according to an Associated Press report. LePage’s attempt to cut off health insurance for thousands of young people in his state eventually failed.
Under the Affordable Care Act, adults with incomes up to 133 percent of the federal poverty level are eligible for Medicaid, whether or not they have children. But Gov. LePage, who declined to expand Medicaid in Maine, decided to cut eligibility for the public insurance.
LePage in 2012 announced several cuts to Medicaid, among them plans to increase the income eligibility standards for low-income parents, and to remove 19- and 20-year-olds who aren’t parents from Medicaid rolls altogether.
Though LePage—who won re-election in November—was able to move forward with changes to Medicaid income eligibility standards for parents, the governor had to submit his decision to remove 19- and 20-year-olds from Medicaid rolls to the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) for approval.
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After the CMS denied LePage’s request, the governor took the issue to the First Circuit Court of Appeals, which in November ruled in CMS’s favor.
LePage’s administration spent $53,000 to hire a private lawyer after state Attorney General Janet Mills said she would not represent the state in its fight with the federal government. Mills said the case had “little legal merit” and “wouldn’t be a good use of time and money.”
Maine Department of Health and Human Services Commissioner Mary Mayhew defended the legal battle, saying that the state should prioritize Medicare access for the elderly and disabled instead of healthy young adults, according to the AP report.
Under LePage, the state has also made restricted access to health care for both the elderly and disabled, by cutting coverage for more than 8,000 residents who qualify for Medicare but use Medicaid subsidies to buy prescription drugs.
If LePage’s proposal had gone through, some 6,500 young adults would have lost coverage.
The Maine legislature three times voted to expand Medicaid in the last two years. Each time expansion was vetoed by LePage. The governor also vetoed proposals to expand family planning services for low-income women under Medicaid.