Maine governor signs hospital debt payment plan

AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) -- Republican Gov. Paul LePage has signed a bill that will pay off Maine's hospitals' debt of hundreds of millions of dollars for Medicaid services.

The Democratic-led Legislature unanimously approved the bill late Thursday night.

The hospitals will receive $490 million in state and federal money. The state's share of $183.5 million will be covered using bonds, paid off with anticipated revenues from a restructured, 10-year liquor contract, which will trigger a federal match to complete the payment.

The bill has been one of LePage's top priorities since taking office in 2011. He vetoed a previous measure because it included a proposal to expand Medicaid coverage.

Hospital officials say not being paid by the state has forced hospitals to put off buying new equipment, restrict travel and hiring and freeze salaries.