Elections Matter: Thanks to Gov. Mills, CMS finally approves ACA Medicaid expansion in Maine *retroactive* to July 2018
Governor Janet Mills announced today that the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has approved Maine’s State Plan Amendments to expand Medicaid (MaineCare) under the Affordable Care Act. CMS notified the Maine Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) of the approval today.
CMS approved the state’s plan retroactive to July 2, 2018, which was the date indicated in the 2017 ballot initiative supported by nearly 60 percent of Maine voters. MaineCare expansion is projected to provide coverage to approximately 70,000 people throughout the state. With today’s approval, the federal government will finance more than $800 million in estimated costs for those who enroll under expansion from July 2, 2018 through state fiscal year 2021. Maine is among 36 states plus the District of Columbia that have expanded Medicaid.
“This approval marks the culmination of a long-overdue effort to fulfill the will of Maine voters and help tens of thousands of people access health care,” said Governor Janet Mills. “The benefits of expansion – including this injection of hundreds of millions of dollars of federal funds – will extend to rural hospitals, to businesses, and to our economy as a whole. In the coming months, my Administration will work with partners across the state to ensure that those who qualify enroll and receive the health care they need to live heathy lives and remain in the workforce.”
“We are gratified to learn that CMS has formally accepted our plan for expanding Medicaid in Maine,” said DHHS Commissioner Jeanne Lambrew. “We appreciate our partnership with CMS and its regional office, and will continue our efforts to reach all those eligible for Medicaid to ensure Mainers everywhere have access to affordable, quality health care.”
Maine voters passed a referendum in November of 2017 directing the state to expand MaineCare. The new law required Maine DHHS to adopt rules to implement the program and grant coverage no later than July 2, 2018. Governor Mills, in her first executive order, instructed DHHS to swiftly and efficiently begin implementation of expansion. In a separate letter (PDF), Governor Mills also asked CMS to approve the State Plan Amendments filed by the previous administration, which Maine DHHS corrected to reflect the July 2, 2018 effective date.
State Plan Amendments detail how a state operates its Medicaid program and are sent to CMS for review and approval.
MaineCare started covering enrollees newly eligible under the expansion in January of 2019. With this approval, CMS has started sending notices to low-income people who signed up for coverage through HealthCare.gov that they may now be eligible for Medicaid. The Wilton call center will start taking calls in mid-April to answer questions about the MaineCare expansion.
As of March 29th, 16,797 individuals have been granted Medicaid coverage under expansion. DHHS has processed all of the applications of those who applied between July 2, 2018 and January 2, 2019.