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Mills: 529 Mainers qualify for care under expansion

January 10, 2019

AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) — Maine’s new Democratic governor said Thursday that more than 500 Mainers have qualified for health care coverage under voter-approved Medicaid expansion.

Gov. Janet Mills on her first day signed an executive order to start expanding Medicaid that nearly 3 of 5 voters demanded in 2017. So far, she’s said 529 Mainers have qualified for coverage under the expansion, and said the Department of Health and Human Services has been receiving about 2,000 phone calls each day.

“Now they can see a doctor, receive preventive care, afford critical prescription medications, and much more,” Mills said.

Maine is still awaiting federal approval of its plan for Medicaid expansion, for which the state hopes to receive roughly $490 million in annual federal funding. Mills also ordered Maine’s health agency to adopt regulations to allow Mainers to enroll in Medicaid expansion and said she’s seeking “expedited” approval of benefits retroactive to July 2.

Mills also said Thursday that she’ll work with lawmakers to fully fund expansion for at least 70,000 Mainers without tax increases in the two-year budget. Mills spoke to reporters before her administration led a discussion with health care providers, patient and consumer groups and liberal advocacy groups.

She cites an independent estimate suggesting Maine’s expansion costs will total about $140 million from fiscal year 2019 through 2021.

Former Republican Gov. Paul LePage blocked expansion over fiscal concerns, and Mills said over 8,000 people who previously applied for coverage received denials.

Now, Mills said one priority will be ensuring that as many people sign up as possible.

While LePage’s administration said over 100 staffers would be needed to process Medicaid applications, Mills said her team would work with health care providers and agencies to sign up enrollees.

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