AUGUSTA — Republican Gov. Paul LePage asked the nation’s highest court on Thursday to weigh in on his ongoing battle with the federal government over his effort to remove about 6,000 low-income young adults from Maine’s Medicaid rolls.

LePage’s administration is asking the U.S. Supreme Court to review the decision of the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which ruled in November that the federal government was correct in rejecting the governor’s plan to eliminate coverage for the 19- and 20-year olds.

The Associated Press obtained a copy of the filing from the administration.

Four of the nine justices must agree for the court to accept a case, and only about 100 of the thousands of cases the justices are asked to review each year are heard. The court generally considers cases that have national significance or when there’s a disagreement between lower courts that needs to be settled.

LePage officials argue that the state must devote its limited welfare funds to those who truly need it – not “job-ready young adults.” But opponents of the cuts have said that providing coverage for this population is essential because of its high rates of mental health and substance abuse problems.

The governor sought more than $20 million in cuts to the Medicaid program in 2012, but the federal government only approved some of his proposals. It denied this specific request, arguing that the Affordable Care Act prohibits states from changing the eligibility requirements of children until 2019.

In its filing, the administration says the questions presented in the case are “important and pressing federal questions” calling for the court’s intervention. It says the case raises questions that are of national importance “in light of the ongoing debate over whether states should opt in to the Medicaid expansion.”

LePage had to hire private lawyers to pursue the case after the state’s attorney general declined to represent the administration. Attorney General Janet Mills said the administration wouldn’t win and, therefore, the case wouldn’t be a good use of time or money.

The governor had spent nearly $53,000 on the case through his contingency fund as of December. Details on how much money the administration has paid attorneys since then were not immediately available Thursday.

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