AUGUSTA, Maine — The state’s Department of Health and Human Services will hold off on notifying certain Medicaid recipients that their coverage might be eliminated until the state secures the federal approval necessary to implement the cuts.

MaineCare Services director Stefanie Nadeau told members of the Legislature’s Appropriations Committee on Friday that DHHS will await an OK from the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services or the outcome of court action Maine has taken to force federal officials to sign off on about $20 million in cuts to Maine’s Medicaid program before notifying recipients of reductions in Medicaid benefits.

In August, Health and Human Services Commissioner Mary Mayhew told lawmakers her department planned to send notices to about 12,000 low-income parents to alert them that they might lose Medicaid coverage, pending federal approval.

The 12,000 are among 36,000 total who would lose coverage if Maine receives federal permission to trim its Medicaid rolls. The federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has indicated the cuts for those 12,000 parents are likely consistent with federal law, while the remaining cuts might not be allowed under the Obama administration’s Affordable Care Act.

That health care reform law largely prohibits states from cutting Medicaid services in advance of a 2014 expansion of the program.

Rep. John Martin, D-Eagle Lake, told Mayhew last month that Medicaid recipients might be confused by a letter that says they could lose benefits if the letter doesn’t clearly indicate that the cuts won’t take effect without federal approval.

Whether the federal government will OK Maine’s requested Medicaid cuts is uncertain. The federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, or CMS, said last week it wouldn’t meet the LePage administration’s requested Sept. 1 deadline for determining whether the cuts are allowed.

In response, Attorney General William Schneider asked for a court review of CMS’ decision. He also asked the First Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston to order the federal government to approve Maine’s request to make its proposed Medicaid cuts and to pay Maine’s state share of related Medicaid expenses for the time federal officials take to consider the request.

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