- Associated Press - Thursday, February 12, 2015

AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) - Gov. Paul LePage’s administration petitioned the nation’s highest court Thursday to consider whether Maine can remove thousands of low-income young adults from the state’s Medicaid rolls after the federal government rejected the state’s request to do so.

LePage asked the U.S. Supreme Court to review the decision of the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which ruled in November that the federal government was correct in rejecting the governor’s plan to eliminate coverage for 19- and 20-year-olds. The Associated Press obtained a copy of the filing from the administration.

Mary Mayhew, commissioner of the Department of Health and Human Services, said the case is ultimately about Maine’s right to continue its effort to prioritize its welfare programs for the most vulnerable.

“We are asking the Supreme Court to review this case because we firmly believe that Maine is on the right path, toward fiscal responsibility and prosperity for all, and the federal government’s path of reckless welfare spending is one that we decline to pursue,” she said in a statement.

Four of the nine justices must agree for the court to accept a case, and only about 100 of the thousands of cases the justices are asked to review each year are heard. The court generally considers cases that have national significance or in which there’s a disagreement between lower courts that needs to be settled.

The governor sought more than $20 million in cuts to the Medicaid program in 2012, but the federal government only approved some of its request. It denied this specific proposal because it argues that the Affordable Care Act prohibits states from changing the eligibility requirements of children until 2019.

In its filing, the administration says the questions presented in the case are “important and pressing federal questions” calling for the court’s intervention. The administration argues that a prior Supreme Court ruling demonstrates that states cannot be forced to expand their Medicaid programs.

It also warns that the appeals court ruling “impairs” Maine’s health care and budget priorities to the tune of millions of dollars each year, at least until 2019 and possibly indefinitely.

The Republican governor had to hire private lawyers to pursue the case after state Attorney General Janet Mills declined to represent the administration. Mills, a Democrat, said the administration wouldn’t win and, therefore, the case wouldn’t be a good use of time or money.

Critics of the proposed cuts have said that these low-income young adults need Medicaid coverage because they have high rates of mental health and substance abuse problems.

The governor spent nearly $53,000 on the case through his contingency fund as of December, according to documents obtained by the AP through a Freedom of Access Act Request.

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Follow Alanna Durkin at https://www.twitter.com/aedurkin

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