On Gov. Janet Mills' first day in office, the Democratic governor directed Maine's Department of Health and Human Services to begin the implementation of the state's long-delayed Medicaid expansion initiative.
Mills signed Executive Order No. 1 on Jan. 3, which orders the Maine DHS to "swiftly and efficiently" begin the expansion initiative that former Republican Gov. Paul LePage spent nearly all of 2018 blocking from going into effect.
"More than a year ago, the people of Maine voted to expand Medicaid. Today, my Administration is taking the long-awaited steps to fulfill their will," Mills said in a statement.
The executive order requires the Maine DHS to adopt the rules of the expansion act by Feb. 1 and requests the earliest possible approval from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.
In November 2017, Maine voters passed Medicaid expansion through a ballot initiative that made it to the ballot by a petition. Maine was the first state to adopt this strategy specifically for Medicaid expansion. The strategy was then successfully used by three more states in the 2018 midterm elections.
The initiative received nearly 60% of support from Maine voters, according to the Portland Press Herald. However, LePage blocked the initiative from taking effect throughout 2018, leading to Maine's Supreme Court ordering LePage to implement the plan. By the time LePage left office, the expansion had still not taken effect.
Medicaid expansion could extend coverage to more than 70,000 people in Maine.