The federal government has approved Maine’s Medicaid expansion, and more than 16,000 people have been granted health coverage under the program since January, the Mills administration announced Wednesday.

Maine voters approved expansion in November 2017 by a 59 percent to 41 percent margin, but Democratic Gov. Janet Mills’ predecessor, former Gov. Paul LePage, blocked implementation last year.

Mills signed an executive order on her first day in office to implement the expansion. Approval by the federal government is considered routine, as expansion is permitted as an additional benefit for states under the Affordable Care Act. But states are required to apply for the expansion, which LePage, a Republican, refused to do. A lengthy court battle between the LePage administration and expansion proponents ensued, but Mills assumed office before the case was resolved.

Mainers who earn up to 138 percent of the federal poverty limit, $28,676 for a family of three, are now eligible for Medicaid. More than 280,000 Mainers are currently enrolled.  

Coverage is retroactive to July 2, when expansion would have been implemented had LePage not blocked it, according to a news release from Mills. Thousands had applied for Medicaid, starting last July, but were rejected by the LePage administration.

Maine has joined 36 states plus the District of Columbia that have expanded Medicaid under the ACA.

“This approval marks the culmination of a long-overdue effort to fulfill the will of Maine voters and help tens of thousands of people access health care,” Mills said in a statement. “The benefits of expansion – including this injection of hundreds of millions of dollars of federal funds – will extend to rural hospitals, to businesses, and to our economy as a whole. In the coming months, my administration will work with partners across the state to ensure that those who qualify enroll and receive the health care they need to live healthy lives and remain in the workforce.”

Through March 29, 16,797 Mainers have obtained Medicaid coverage under expansion.

The federal government covers about 90 percent of the cost of expansion, so the state would receive $500 million annually in federal funds, while state would $60 million to cover expansion.

Joe Lawlor can be contacted at 791-6376 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: joelawlorph

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