Maine Gov. LePage Threatens to Block Medicaid Expansion

By on November 8, 2017
Paul LePage

Maine Gov. Paul LePage (R) says he will violate the will of his constituents by refusing to expand Medicaid access, even though the state voted to do just that on Tuesday night.

In a statement, LePage says the move would be a financial liability for the state and that he won’t follow through with implementing it.

“Credit agencies are predicting that this fiscally irresponsible Medicaid expansion will be ruinous to Maine’s budget. Therefore, my administration will not implement Medicaid expansion until it has been fully funded by the Legislature at the levels DHHS has calculated, and I will not support increasing taxes on Maine families, raiding the rainy day fund or reducing services to our elderly or disabled.”

He may not have a choice, though. Under state law, the governor doesn’t have much power to block referendums from becoming the “law of the land” in Maine.

“Under the state constitution, 45 days after the legislature reconvenes, Medicaid expansion will become the law of the state,” said Mainers for Health Care spokesperson David Farmer in an interview with Talking Points Memo. “According to the statute, the Department of Health and Human Services has 90 days after that to submit an implementation plan to the federal government, and the implementation itself will take place in mid-August of 2018.”

Farmer said his group is more than ready to litigate the matter should LePage attempt to illegally block the implementation.

“If the governor isn’t willing to follow the law, we will take it to the courts if necessary.”

The Medicaid expansion measure won by a healthy 20-point margin, which is as heft a mandate as a referendum can get under most circumstances. LePage has long been an opponent of such initiatives and has vetoed five separate bills by the state government to do so under his tenure. He won’t be able to veto this measure, however, meaning he has ultimately lost the battle to keep needed health care away from Maine’s most vulnerable citizens.