- Associated Press - Wednesday, May 6, 2015

AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) - The federal government is urging the U.S. Supreme Court to reject Republican Gov. Paul LePage’s request to decide whether Maine can eliminate Medicaid coverage for thousands of low-income young adults.

LePage’s administration asked the court to review the case in February after a federal appeals court denied its plan to remove about 6,000 19-and-20-year-olds from Maine’s Medicaid program.

In a court filing this week, the federal government said a Supreme Court review isn’t necessary because the state’s arguments for why it should be allowed to trim the Medicaid rolls lack merit and because there’s no disagreement between lower courts to be settled.

No other state has sought to challenge the constitutionality of the requirement, “no other state has supported the petitioner’s challenge and even Maine’s own Attorney General has disavowed petitioner’s claims,” Solicitor General Donald Verrilli Jr. said in the filing.

Attorney General Janet Mills declined to represent the administration because she said the case had little legal merit and wouldn’t be a good use of time and money. LePage’s administration hired private attorneys and as of January had spent nearly $53,000 on legal fees to pursue the case.

Federal officials argue that the cuts are prohibited because states must maintain their levels of Medicaid coverage for children until 2019 or lose funding for the program under the Affordable Care Act. The Medicaid program considers 18-, 19- and 20-year-olds as children.

LePage’s administration says the Medicaid cuts should be allowed because the Supreme Court ruled in a previous case that states can’t be forced to expand their Medicaid programs.

But the federal government rejected that argument.

“The fact that the court held that Congress lacked authority to require all participating states to expand coverage to all non-elderly adults - including 19-and-20-year-olds - says nothing about Congress’s authority to require states that were already covering 19-and-20-year-olds as children to continue to do so,” it said.

Maine Department of Health and Human Services Commissioner Mary Mayhew said Wednesday that “it should not be a surprise to anyone” that President Barack Obama’s lawyers don’t want this case reviewed. She accused the administration of pulling a “bait and switch” by promising that Maine could stop covering young people who aren’t disabled when increased funding ran out and then forcing the state to keep them on the Medicaid rolls under the Affordable Care Act.

“The federal government wants to put a stop to Maine’s efforts to correctly prioritize our funds for the elderly and disabled, instead of for work-ready young adults,” she said in a statement. “Maine must continue to live within its means and prioritize scarce resources in order to keep its promises to our most vulnerable neighbors.”

The Supreme Court accepts only 100 to 150 of the more than 7,000 cases it’s asked to review every year, and they’re usually cases that have national significance or would resolve a conflict between lower courts. Four of the nine Supreme Court justices must agree for the court to accept a case.


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