On Monday Maine’s House of Representatives passed a bill sponsored by House Speaker Rachel Talbot Ross (D-Portland) that would extend taxpayer-funded MaineCare benefits to all residents of Maine regardless of immigration status, including illegal aliens.
Federal rules prohibit illegal aliens from receiving Medicaid benefits. As a result, no federal money can be used to pay for enrolling residents in MaineCare if they are present in the state illegally. That means the money to fund newly eligible enrollees will come from Maine’s General Fund.
The bill passed by the House Monday is LD 199, “An Act to Improve the Health of Maine Residents by Removing Exclusions to the MaineCare Program.”
Under LD 199, individuals who fulfill other requirements for the Medicaid program, such as means-testing, would be eligible for MaineCare coverage starting July 1, 2024 even if they are not in the country legally.
LD 199 passed in the House “ought to pass as amended” by a vote of 78-61, alongside a committee amendment that would appropriate a total of $13,679,998 for fiscal year (FY) 2024-2025 to pay for MaineCare coverage on noncitizens.
The Fiscal Note attached to the bill shows that by FY 2025-2026 the Maine Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) will allocate $17,026,190 to free health insurance for noncitizens.
The bill says that DHHS shall maximize the receipt of available matching federal funds to pay for the state’s coverage of noncitizen residents, but that “implementation of coverage” is “not contingent” on the receipt of any federal funds.
Matching federal funds are unlikely to come due to federal rules still barring non-citizens from Medicaid coverage.
The total cost of such an endeavor is still unknown, as the total number of noncitizen residents in Maine is unknown and ever-increasing.
When presenting her bill to the Health and Human Services Committee, House Speaker Talbot Ross said that she has a “steadfast commitment to health equity,” and that “healthcare is a fundamental human right.”
“We currently have a two-tiered healthcare system in Maine–one divided along complex and ever-evolving immigration lines,” Talbot Ross said.
“LD I99 is straightforward legislation that would eliminate the injustices embedded in that tiered system and allow any Maine resident who is eligible for federal Medicaid, but for their immigration status, to participate in our state’s MaineCare program,” she said.
“This bill goes against federal law. This bill is an attempt to allow illegal immigrants to access MaineCare,” Rep. Lemelin (R-Chelsea) said in opposition to passing LD 199 Monday.
“Illegal immigrants cannot receive Medicaid. Legal immigrants can receive Medicaid,” Lemelin said.
“We are all in favor of immigration and people seeking asylum. However, asylum does not mean you come to the U.S., make a statement, and then stay,” he said.
Lemelin argued that LD 199 should not be passed until Maine has a way to definitively prove everyone’s proper immigration status with paperwork.