AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) _ In letters dated Jan. 7, the federal government rejected the LePage administration’s request to end MaineCare insurance coverage for more than 20,000 low-income Mainers.
Secretary Kathleen Sebelius denied the governor's request to lower the income threshold for Maine parents and to drop coverage for 19- and 20-year-olds altogether.
The former Republican-controlled Legislature voted to eliminate coverage for parents with incomes from 100 percent to 133 percent of the federal poverty level, along with 19- and 20-year-olds and seniors and disabled people in the Medicare Savings Program. The projected savings were $20 million.
In a letter, Sebelius did grant permission to reduce coverage under the Medicare Savings Program and for parents making between 133 percent and 150 percent of the poverty level.
The LePage administration requested permission for the cuts claiming hardship due to the budget deficit facing the state.
Maine DHHS Commissioner Mary Mayhew said the ruling gives the state some flexibility but she's disappointed that the full changes weren't approved.
In a statement released to the press, Sara Gagne-Holmes, executive director for Maine Equal Justice Partners said, “the LePage administration has been determined to eliminate access to health care for thousands of Maine families. The U.S. Department of Health and Human has rightly rejected major parts of his plan as illegal.”
Maine Equal Justice Partners is an advocacy group for low-income families.
The group estimates that about 14,500 working parents and 6,500 19- and 20-year-olds were protected by the federal ruling. Another 14,000 adults and 5,600 seniors and people with disabilities will lose coverage.
(This story was updated to include reporting from the Associated Press at 3:00 pm on 01/08/2013)
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