AUGUSTA — Medicaid expansion – and coverage for more than 70,000 Mainers – is the law.

Thanks to the hard work of everyone who worked to pass this law in November and support its implementation, thousands of our friends and neighbors won’t have to choose between putting food on the table and filling a prescription.

People who are sick and struggling financially will now be able to get the care they need to get well, to keep that job, to continue caring for a loved one, to have a better quality of life.

Whether voters supported Medicaid expansion to save lives, or to bring substantial economic benefits and jobs to our state, Mainers passed this law with nearly 60 percent support last November.

As a result, people will become eligible for health coverage Monday under the law.

Unfortunately, Gov. Paul LePage and his administration have done nothing to implement the law the voters passed. Nonetheless, it’s critical for Mainers who think they are eligible to apply for Medicaid, also known as MaineCare in Maine.

To be clear, it’s unlikely that LePage or the Department of Health and Human Services will allow people to access health care services right away – they’ve acknowledged they have yet to do anything to implement the law – but by signing up, eligible people will protect their rights to health care.

And, if they are ultimately approved for coverage, by signing up now eligible Mainers could protect their right to retroactive coverage, meaning their medical bills would be covered starting at the beginning of the month they apply.

Additionally, if DHHS fails to make a decision on an application within 45 days, applicants become eligible for temporary coverage, unless the applicant caused the delay.

It’s confusing, for sure. And that confusion isn’t an accident.

It’s the direct result of the actions and inactions of LePage and his administration, which have demonstrated time and time again that they will stop at nothing in their efforts to deny health care to Maine people. LePage has made clear that he believes that some people deserve health care, while others do not. The voters disagreed.

We encourage people to submit an application. That’s the best way for Mainers to protect their health care rights.

Maine Equal Justice has developed an online tool available at www.mejp.org to help people determine if they are eligible for coverage through expansion.

Mainers who believe they might be eligible can also call Maine Equal Justice’s hotline at 866-626-7059 for help with applying and to understand their rights.

Here’s where the process stands. In November, voters overwhelmingly approved Medicaid expansion, but LePage refused to implement it. In April, a group of advocates and affected individuals sued to force the LePage administration to implement the law.

On June 4, the Maine Superior Court agreed with the people and ordered the LePage administration to begin the process of implementation by filing a state plan amendment, which allows the state to draw down federal funding, 90 percent of the total cost, to support expansion.

On June 20, the Maine Supreme Judicial Court put that order on hold until July 18, when it will hear oral arguments on the administration’s request to hold off on submitting the state plan until the appeal is decided. That order does not affect the July 2 date in the Medicaid expansion law.

Also on June 20, the Legislature passed legislation to fund the full cost of expansion based on the cost estimated by the governor, taking away his last excuse for blocking access to health care. We are grateful to the legislators from both sides of the aisle who voted to support the will of Maine voters.

And even though LePage has vetoed the funding bill, the funds are available to provide health coverage to people who are eligible until at least May 2019. The law the voters passed is still binding.

Importantly, the Legislature will have an opportunity to override LePage’s veto and make sure that people get the health care they deserve sooner rather than later. We are counting on them to uphold the will of the voters.

The law is the law. Mainers voted for more health care and that stands. Too many Mainers have waited too long for life-saving health care. The voters and the Legislature have spoken and now it’s time to move forward.

By signing up for coverage now, eligible Mainers protect themselves, assert their rights and take one more step toward getting the health care that we all deserve.