Maine Equal Justice Partners and the American Civil Liberties Union of Maine have filed a lawsuit against the Maine Department of Health and Human Services for dropping MaineCare coverage for a local cancer patient and legal noncitizen.
The suit, filed yesterday in U.S. District Court, claims the state violated the U.S. Constitution by restricting MaineCare benefits to immigrants, according to the Portland Press Herald. The Legislature last June passed a two-year state budget that cut benefits to legal noncitizens age 21 and older, excluding pregnant women, who have lived in the United States for less than five years — a move that affected 500 Mainers, according to the suit. Hans Bruns, 65, of Fort Fairfield is the plaintiff in the case. A legal resident of the United States since 2007 and a Maine resident since 2009, Bruns has cancer and received MaineCare health insurance for about a year. In an affidavit, Bruns said he lacks the money to pay for his pain medication, transportation to treatments and other medical services.
The groups are seeking class-action status to represent other Mainers affected by the change and ask the court to require the state to restore insurance to those people, according to the paper.
John Martins, a spokesman for DHHS, said the new law meets federal guidelines that allow states to set benefit levels based on citizens' residential and immigration status. Gov. Paul LePage has advocated cutting the state's MaineCare budget, and last year's changes are expected to save $1.3 million this year and $2.6 million in the next fiscal year, which starts July 1.