Mills: New tobacco settlement cash could fund Medicaid expansion
Attorney General Janet Mills said Tuesday she has found a funding source for expanding Medicaid in Maine, which could snuff some arguments against expansion but is sure to cause ongoing controversy about her authority to spend the money.
Mills, a Democrat who is running for governor, said during a Tuesday news conference at the State House that as the result of recent negotiations with tobacco companies, Maine will receive an additional $35 million over what was previously expected, during the next year. Mills suggested using the funds to expand Medicaid eligibility and said the money would cover the expansion costs through the end of the current two-year budget cycle in June 2019.
“These funds are available to pay for Medicaid expansion as enacted by the people in November, in the current biennium,” Mills said.
Republican Gov. Paul LePage’s office did not respond to questions Tuesday morning.
Maine already receives annual payments of approximately $46 million from the 1998 Master Settlement Agreement between major tobacco companies and numerous states. The $35 million referenced by Mills is one-time money, which means the next governor and Legislature would have to grapple with ongoing costs after this year’s election. That would conflict with one of the key stipulations set forth by LePage.
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