A Year After Voters Approved Medicaid Expansion, Maine's New Governor Is Finally Making it Happen

Photo: Robert F. Bukaty/AP

It turns out that if you get rid of Republicans in power, shit gets done pretty quickly. The brand new Democratic governor of Maine, Janet Mills, is already moving to enact the Medicaid expansion voters approved more than a year ago. The expansion was repeatedly blocked by the former Republican Governor Paul LePage, even after the state Supreme Court ordered that the new law would be effective last July.

Today, Mills signed an executive order, her first, directing the Department of Health and Human Services to take the steps to expand Medicaid in the state. 

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“More than a year ago, the people of Maine voted to expand Medicaid. Today, my Administration is taking the long-awaited steps to fulfill their will,” Mills said in a statement, according to local CBS affiliate WGME.

“I am directing my Administration to begin implementing Medicaid expansion as quickly and as efficiently as possible so that we can help more Maine people access the health care they need,” she added.Expanding health care and lowering the cost for Maine people and small businesses is a top priority of my administration, and I look forward to working with the Legislature to achieve that goal.”

The expansion is available to those earning up to 138 percent of the federal poverty limit, which works out to $16,753 for a single person, and $28,676 for a three person family. This will allow 70,000 more Mainers to qualify for Medicaid. Those who think they may be eligible can begin signing up immediately.

Naomi Loss, of Lisbon Falls, told the Portland Press Herald that the expansion will hugely improve life for her and her daughter Bethany, who has epilepsy and cognitive and developmental disorders. Bethany’s medications can cost more than $1,000 a month, and she was not eligible for coverage under the Affordable Care Act.

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“When I heard the news, it was such a huge sigh of relief,” Loss said. “We have been putting off doctor’s visits because it’s just so expensive. I knew (Mills) said she would do this right away and made these promises, but when someone gets into office, you just don’t know how long it would take.”

The expansion will also make a big impact on Mainers with substance abuse problems. For many of them, this will be the first time treatment is covered.

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“The implications are significant for people’s lives,” Robin Merrill, executive director of Maine Equal Justice Partners, who campaigned for the original referendum, told the Press Herald. “They won’t be delaying the care they need, like they did when they were uninsured. Medicaid expansion is going to become a reality, finally. It’s taken a long time.”

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