Maine approved Medicaid expansion by a ballot initiative more than a year ago, but former Governor Paul LePage had blocked it from taking effect.
Thankfully, Gov. Janet Mills (D-ME) knows how to keep a promise.
On Thursday, in her first executive order on her first day in office, Mills ordered Maine to move forward with Medicaid expansion, which is likely to provide health insurance for an additional 70,000 Maine residents.
Our new Administration will expand Medicaid – and pay for it sustainably; work to ensure that every person has primary care; control the cost of health insurance; and rein in the cost of prescription drugs. #mepolitics
— Janet Mills (@JanetMillsforME) January 3, 2019
As ThinkProgress’ Amanda Michelle Gomez previously explained, under the Affordable Care Act, Medicaid eligibility was extended to nearly all low-income people making below 138 percent of the federal poverty line. However, a Supreme Court ruling in 2012 allowed states to opt out of expanding Medicaid under the ACA. Maine was one of 12 states run by Republican governors who decided to opt out.
Over the past few years, lawmakers in Maine fought tooth and nail to expand Medicaid, but LePage vetoed five different bills on the issue. So, in 2017, Medicaid expansion supporters attempted another route, and put Medicaid expansion up for a vote as a ballot measure.
Almost 60 percent of Maine voters endorsed the expansion, making the first time that a state had approved the ACA’s Medicaid expansion through a ballot initiative.
But LePage continued to slow-walk and block the measure at every turn, even using his final weeks in office to ignore a Maine Superior Court Justice’s ruling that LePage had to stop sabotaging Medicaid expansion.
“I will go to jail before I put the state in red ink,” LePage said last summer, emphasizing his desire to keep Maine’s budget in check. “And if the court tells me I have to do it, then we’re going to be going to jail.”
The Medicaid expansion will help Maine residents fight the opioid epidemic, which is particularly important considering that Maine was one of the states that saw an increase in overdose deaths between 2017 and 2018, according to Huffington Post.