LePage, Pingree meet Tuesday on federal Medicaid waiver

AUGUSTA, Maine — Gov. Paul LePage met privately Tuesday morning with U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree to discuss his proposed supplemental budget for the Department of Health and Human Services — specifically the status of a federal waiver that could be needed to allow some of the cuts.

After the 45-minutes meeting, Pingree spoke to reporters and said she doesn’t believe that U.S. DHHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius will grant a waiver to Maine despite the governor’s confidence.

The waiver would be needed to allow an estimated $37 million in cuts out of a total of $220 million in cuts to DHHS over the next year and a half.

The governor did not speak after Tuesday’s meeting but his spokeswoman, Adrienne Bennett, called the talk positive. She said LePage and Pingree agreed on the economic crisis in DHHS but disagreed philosophically on the best way to fix the problem.

Members of the Legislature’s Appropriations Committee continue to meet to discuss the proposed budget. Although some items have been agreed upon, the biggest parts of the proposal are still up for debate.

Several days ago, LePage and legislative leaders came to an informal agreement that they would report the budget out of Appropriations by Feb. 1. That’s Wednesday.