Feds: Maine's expansion of MaineCare is covered

Posted Tuesday, April 30, 2013 in News

Feds: Maine's expansion of MaineCare is covered

by Gina Hamilton

Two letters that Democratic lawmakers call "game changers" were received by Gov. Paul LePage from the federal Department of Health and Human Services.

The letters stipulate that Maine's Medicaid expansion would be covered at 100 percent for the next three years, and 90 percent thereafter.

Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said the state would receive “the highest available match rate available under the law” for approximately 10,500 low-income individuals who had been partly covered under an existing program in Maine.

The question of whether the federal government would cover 100 percent of the costs for this subset of low-income individuals is one issue likely to influence the LePage administration’s decision over whether to expand its Medicaid programs as part of the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

The wrinkle in the works involved the 10,500 childless adults who had been partially covered by MaineCare as part of a 2009 expansion. 

The letter from Sebelius, and another letter from Cindy Mann, director of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, saying that she believes the individuals would be covered at 100 percent for the first three years, led State House Democrats to renew pressure on LePage to accept the expansion funding.

“I think that was really the question that people were waiting to hear the answer to,” said House Speaker Mark Eves, D-North Berwick. “Now that we have that answer, we can move forward with confidence knowing what the costs would be to the state.”

State Democrats aren't the only ones pressing for the expansion.

Upon learning of the letters, Congresswoman Chellie Pingree said Tuesday that if Maine refuses federal funding for Medicaid expansion, Maine taxpayers would end up supporting coverage in other states.

"Federal officials confirmed today what we expected—that if Maine expands Medicaid coverage, the state will get reimbursed by the federal government," Pingree said.  "Those federal funds come from taxpayers in Maine and around the country, so if we turn the funding down, Maine people will be subsidizing Medicaid expansion in other states and not getting anything in return.  It just doesn't make sense."

Even the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, found that Maine would realize nearly $700 million in savings over ten years by expanding Medicaid coverage and accepting the federal funding that goes with it.

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