Maine went to court this month to force federal authorities to speed up their decision about whether the state should be given permission to dump thousands of people off health insurance.
On Thursday, the court answered and threw out Maine’s complaint, meaning that the cuts scheduled to go into effect on Oct. 1 probably won’t happen. The state is now forced to wait until Nov. 1 for its answer. But state officials should have no reason to believe that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is likely to be more sympathetic than were the courts.
The political high wire act is now coming toward a conclusion, and Republican lawmakers and the LePage administration should come to terms with the fact that they may not have really balanced the budget this spring. “Cuts” were made to Medicaid, known here as MaineCare, that ran counter to federal law and could not be made without a waiver from the federal government.
No surprise here, lawmakers knew that they would need federal permission long before they declared the budget balanced. The administration knew the feds would have 90 days to answer it’s application, which was not filed until Aug. 1.
So since they were not rescued by the courts, Republican legislators and the governor may have to come to terms with the fact that they spent $20 million they did not have, and they may have to reopen the budget and find another way to balance it without eliminating health care coverage for nearly 30,000 Mainers.
Since no state has ever been given a waiver like the one that the LePage administration is requesting — one that violates the spirt of the Affordable Care Act, the Obama administration’s cornerstone domestic policy initiative — Maine officials should be preparing their Plan B now.
This time, they should be more realistic about what it takes to abide by the law and deliver health care to veterans, seniors, families and the other Mainers whose lives rely on MaineCare.