The LePage administration on Tuesday submitted required documents to the federal government to expand Medicaid to 70,000 Mainers, but there’s a catch. Gov. Paul LePage – an expansion opponent – is asking federal officials to deny the application.

“I strongly encourage CMS (U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services) to reject the State Plan Amendment that may soon be submitted by the Maine Department of Health and Human Services pursuant to court order,” LePage wrote in an Aug. 31 letter to Seema Verma, CMS administrator, and U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar. “If accepted, the SPA would commit Maine to expanding the Medicaid program to an additional 70,000 to 90,000 individuals. However, not one dime of the hundreds of millions of dollars that will be needed to pay for the state’s share of the expansion has been appropriated.”

LePage vetoed a $60 million Medicaid expansion funding bill state lawmakers approved in June. Voters approved Medicaid expansion by a 59 to 41 percent margin in November, 2017, but the LePage administration has refused to implement it.

Robyn Merrill, executive director of Maine Equal Justice Partners, which is suing the state for failing to expand Medicaid, said asking the federal government to reject the expansion plan is unprecedented.

“They submitted a plan, but said, ‘Don’t approve it.’ This is not over,” Merrill said. “The governor is doing everything he can to block the will of Maine voters, trying to stop 70,000 Mainers from having health insurance.”

Merrill said considering the stance of the LePage administration, the lawsuits will continue.

Maine Equal Justice Partners has so far won its court rulings against the LePage administration, and the court ordered Maine DHHS in August to file the State Plan Amendment.

This story will be updated.

Gov. Paul LePage (Morning Sentinel file photo)

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