On Thursday Democrats in Maine’s House of Representatives reaffirmed their support for a bill that would extend taxpayer-funded MaineCare benefits to illegal aliens and other non-citizens with qualifying low incomes, but made a series of concessions in decreasing the scope and fiscal impact of the bill.
The bill, LD 199, was sponsored by the House Speaker Rachel Talbot Ross (D-Portland), and as initially proposed would have made all noncitizens over 21 with qualifying low incomes living in Maine eligible to receive MaineCare benefits, regardless of their immigration status.
A fiscal note attached to the original bill projected $13,679,998 would have to be appropriated in the fiscal year 2024-25 to pay for the expanded coverage for non-citizens, and $17,026,190 in 2025-26, though it’s not clear how that cost was estimated.
The new amendment to the bill introduced Thursday by Rep. Michele Meyer (D-Eliot), House Amendment B (H-720), would limit the MaineCare coverage extended to noncitizen Maine residents to only parents and caretaker relatives of a minor who have qualifying low incomes.
The amendment also requires the cost of the provided coverage to remain within the funds appropriated for that coverage, and requires the Commissioner of Maine’s Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) to adjust the eligibility limits of the program to keep it within budget.
Just as in the original bill, the DHHS is required to maximize the receipt of federal matching funds for the program.
However, as federal rules prohibit illegal aliens from receiving Medicaid benefits, no federal money can be used to pay to enroll residents in MaineCare if they are in the country illegally.
Therefore, the money to pay for the program, absent federal funding, would come from Maine’s General Fund.
The fiscal note for Rep. Meyer’s amendment shows a drastic decrease in the program’s projected cost compared to the originally passed bill.
As amended, the General Fund appropriations to the DHHS for fiscal year 2024-25 would go down from over $13.5 million to $6.1 million, and a projected $4.8 million in fiscal year 2025-26.
A vote to pass the narrowed-down version of LD 199 as amended by Rep. Meyer prevailed 79 to 61 in the House Thursday.
The Senate stood by its acceptance of “ought not to pass” on the bill though, and LD 199 was then effectively killed.