Maine Governor LePage asks top U.S. court to weigh in on Medicaid fight

Reuters News
Posted: Feb 13, 2015 4:35 PM

By Dave Sherwood

AUGUSTA, Maine (Reuters) - Maine Governor Paul LePage has appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court in a dispute with the federal government over the state's effort to trim some young people from its Medicaid rolls.

In a 172-page petition, the Republican LePage administration questioned a lower court ruling that affirmed the federal government decision to reject the state's plan to cut 19- and 20-year-olds from Medicaid.

"The federal government’s path of reckless welfare spending is one that we decline to pursue," Maine Health and Human Services Commissioner Mary Mayhew said on Friday.

A judge for the First Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in November that Maine's move would violate President Barack Obama's signature healthcare reform law, the Affordable Care Act, citing a provision that ensures "children do not lose health insurance as the country transitions from the pre-ACA Medicaid regime to the post-ACA Medicaid regime."

Medicaid is a government health insurance program for low-income and disabled people.

Maine is one of several states that have challenged Obamacare, as the healthcare reform law is known, and congressional Republicans, bolstered by big wins in November elections, have renewed attacks on the law.

The state contends that the federal government has run afoul of a 2012 Supreme Court ruling that allowed each U.S. state to decide whether to accept the expansion.

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Following that ruling, 22 states, including Maine, have declined to expand Medicaid.

LePage, who campaigned on a platform of welfare reform, was re-elected in November after handily beating Democratic challenger and five-term U.S. Representative Mike Michaud.

His administration has long argued that welfare funds should be directed toward "the truly needy, not job-ready adults."

Cutting the Medicaid rolls would have saved Maine $3.7 million, according to the LePage administration, which has sought to slash hundreds of millions of dollars in healthcare spending overall.

(Editing by Scott Malone; Editing by Mohammad Zargham)