AUGUSTA, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- The federal government says it needs more time to consider Maine's plan to cut Medicaid.
Maine's Attorney General and Commissioner of Health and Human Services had sent a letter to the federal government on August 1, saying they wanted their plan approved within 30 days, or they would sue. They also gave the federal government the option of paying Maine's portion of the Medicaid cuts until the issue could be resolved. Under federal rules, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has 90 days to consider the "state plan amendment" that Maine sent. State officials argue that they don't have that kind of time, since the $20 million in cuts are scheduled to go into effect October 1. The legislature has approved eliminating Medicaid coverage for 19 and 20 year-olds, stiffening requirements for non-disabled, non-pregnant adults and removing some people from the Medicare Savings Program.
In a letter sent to Governor Paul LePage Friday, the Acting Administrator for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), Marilyn Tavenner, wrote, "I appreciate that your budget is predicated on the savings anticipated from ending the Medicaid coverage of individuals at issue in the proposed state plan amendment, but your request raises issues that require careful consideration by HHS."
A spokesperson for CMS has said the cuts to 19 and 20 year olds and those to the Medicare Savings Program may not be allowed under the Affordable Care Act. Under the law, states generally cannot cut Medicaid without a federal waiver. Maine Attorney General William Schneider contends, though, that that portion of the law was struck down by the Supreme Court when the Court ruled states did not have to expand Medicaid in 2014.
A spokesperson for the attorney general's office said the state did not file suit on Friday. And a spokesperson for the Department of Health and Human services said Commissioner Mayhew would not be commenting on the issue Friday. Yesterday, she said she was "concerned" and "disappointed" that she had not yet heard from the federal government, and that the state was prepared to file suit.