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August 2 2017

Maine Governor: Our Senators Care More about Deal Making than Medicaid Reform

by Charlotte Hays

It is not every day that the governor of a state takes to the editorial pages to lambast the senators of his own state, including one of his own party.

But that is what Maine Governor Paul R. LePage is doing this morning in the wake of the Maine senators' vote against the Senate's "skinny" ObamaCare repeal and replace bill last week.

The governor writes in this morning's Wall Street Journal that Medicaid expansion nearly broke Maine's budget but that the senators "refuse" to reform the system.

LePage begins:

When it comes to providing affordable health care to the people of Maine, Sens. Susan Collins and Angus King are worse than out of touch—they are downright dangerous. After Maine expanded Medicaid to childless adults in 2002 under then-Gov. King, the program nearly bankrupted our state. But now Ms. Collins and Mr. King are pushing to do it again by refusing to reform ObamaCare and prevent the future expansion of Medicaid.

Sadly, this is no surprise from senators who are more comfortable cutting deals in the polished marble corridors of Washington than meeting with Mainers struggling to make ends meet in Lewiston, Millinocket or Fort Kent.

Collins is a Republican. King is an independent.  King is a former governor of Maine, and LePage  writes that when King left the governor's chair in 2003, he left behind a $1 billion structural budget gap. LePage writes that restoring Maine's financial solvency meant solving the state's Medicaid debts. LePage writes:

When it comes to expanding Medicaid, we have been there and done that. The results 15 years ago were disastrous. The state doubled the size of its Medicaid program, but this failed to reduce the uninsured rate, emergency-room visits or uncompensated care by hospitals. We were saddled with $750 million of Medicaid debt, and I spent my first two years as governor working to repay it.

By reforming Maine’s Medicaid and welfare programs, we directed resources toward the truly needy: elderly, disabled and extremely low-income Mainers. The Medicaid expansion now supported by Sens. Collins and King would open the program mostly to able-bodied people without children. These are not Maine’s most needy residents; providing them “free” health care is tantamount to giving them another welfare entitlement.

Maine’s Public Law 90, a state health-reform plan that I helped implement before it was voided by ObamaCare in 2012, can be a model for the nation. The law aimed to reduce costs by allowing Mainers to purchase health insurance across state lines and created a risk pool to cover people with pre-existing conditions.

Ms. Collins and Mr. King have ignored these ideas, since they are more interested in preening for the cameras than in making real progress.

LePage believes that the block grants for Medicaid outlined in the skinny bill would have been a step in the right direction (though not far enough). LePage also advocates work requirements, more frequent eligibility verification, and revising retroactive eligibility rules.

We don't know how Senators Collins and King obtain their own health care insurance, but here's a sure bet: they don't do it through the system legislated for the rest of the citizenry by the Affordable Care Act.

Speaking of which, elsewhere on the Wall Street Journal opinion page, the editors propose that Members of Congress should have to live under the ObamaCare regime they imposed on the rest of the nation. Fancy that: being subject to the laws you pass.

Former President Obama gave Members a dispensation from having to participate in the system (it included the OPM certifying Congress as a small business with fewer than fifty full-time employees!). President Trump has the authority to revoke this.

Not only would it help Members see the urgency or reform (it would perhaps mean more if they were personally incommoded by ObamaCare) but it has the added feature of being just. And democratic.

IWF/V's Heather Higgins called for eliminating this special dispensation for Congress earlier in the Wall Street Journal.

Independent Women’s Forum’s mission is to improve the lives of Americans by increasing the number of women who value free markets and personal liberty. Sister organization of Independent Women’s Voice.
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