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AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) — The state is suing the federal government for failing to act swiftly on its Aug. 1 waiver request seeking to eliminate Medicaid coverage for more than 20,000 residents, demanding that the federal government either approve the waiver or pay the difference in coverage.
The lawsuit was filed Tuesday after the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services informed the state Friday that it needed more time to review the state's request.
The Republican-controlled Maine Legislature voted to eliminate coverage for parents with incomes between 100 percent and 133 percent of the federal poverty level, along with 19- and 20-year-olds, and seniors and disabled people in the Medicare Savings Program.
Maine Attorney General William Schneider said the state needs the Medicaid waiver to achieve budget savings and he said there's no reason to delay approval.
"Maine's standards in these areas still remain at or greater than the federal minimums with the proposed MaineCare eligibility changes," he said.
In its waiver request, the state said it needed its response from the federal government by Sept. 1, a month before the cuts were due to go into effect.
The lawsuit filed Tuesday with the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston seeks an injunction requiring the federal government to approve the waiver request or to pay the cost of Medicaid benefits above what the Maine Legislature has stipulated.
Gov. Paul LePage contends Medicaid, which serves 361,000 Maine residents, has grown faster than the state's ability to fund it. He contends the legislative cuts are legal because the Supreme Court decision that upheld President Barack Obama's federal health care overhaul limited congressional power to expand Medicaid.
Critics including Rep. Chellie Pingree said the federal law prevents states from reducing Medicaid coverage before 2014, a provision that remains in effect after the Supreme Court ruling.