On her first day in office, Governor Janet Mills lost no time keeping a promise she has been making for months when she signed an executive order to expand Medicaid in Maine.
Mills is calling for the Department of Health and Human Services to begin implementing the expansion of Medicaid that Maine voters passed more than a year ago.
The expansion will make Medicaid available to roughly 70,000 more low-income Mainers.
Democrats have been trying to pass the expansion for six years and had little luck under Mills predecessor, Gov. Paul LePage who had vehemently opposed the expansion and refused to implement it even after Maine voters passed it in November 2017.
"This thing has been pending too long," Mills said Thursday after signing the executive order.
The executive order calls for DHHS to begin taking applications for eligible Mainers and to encourage people to sign up.
"We are sending every signal we can to everybody we can that we will energetically pursue a state plan amendment and implement the law and the will of the people," Mills told reporters Thursday.
The expansion adds new Medicaid eligibility for adults 18 to 65 who do not have children, are not receiving disability, and make less than 138% of the poverty level.
Mills had vowed to sign the expansion on her first day and that is exactly what she did January 3, 2019.
Mills had said she would take immediate action to expand treatment and prevention for the opioid drug epidemic. She says Medicaid expansion will also help get more people into drug treatment.
Medicaid benefits will not be available immediately and there are still some obstacles before the expansion is fully implemented.