All the Rage with Paul LePage: LePage Blasts House GOP Health Care Overhaul
Thursday, March 09, 2017 10:59 AM
This week Gov. Paul LePage went on right-wing talk radio and Fox News to blast the newly released House Republican health care plan and make a number of misleading claims about a referendum to expand MaineCare, the state’s Medicaid program.
On Tuesday, the US House Republicans released their controversial proposal to replace the Affordable Care Act with a law that would scale back federal subsidies for people to purchase health insurance, defund Planned Parenthood, and reduce funding for Medicaid coverage for low-income patients.
However, in a letter to Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan, the governor condemned the plan because it gives states that haven’t expanded Medicaid coverage until 2020 to do so. He expressed worries that the Congressional Republican plan could allow Maine voters to pass a referendum on the November ballot to expand Medicaid, effectively overriding the governor’s many vetoes of the measure.
Under the ACA, the federal government will reimburse 95 percent of the cost for new Medicaid enrollees, before gradually dropping it down to 90 percent after 2020. But the governor insisted in the letter that allowing Maine to expand Medicaid would be “financially devastating” and informed Fox News on Tuesday that Maine is not eligible for the 95-percent reimbursement.
“At the same token, Maine did not qualify for the Medicaid expansion because we had expanded early on in 2000,” said LePage. “We were considered an early expander and so we never got the 90 percent and 100 percent. That really concerns me because it looks right now that the 19 states that did not expand could very well be thrown under the bus.”
While a small group of childless adults whom the governor cut from the MaineCare rolls in 2011 don’t qualify for the higher reimbursement, Maine would still qualify for millions of dollars to cover other patients.
“Basically, states can only get the enhanced federal rate for ‘newly eligible’ populations,” said Emily Brostek, the executive director of Maine Consumers for Affordable Healthcare. “Maine used to cover parents at a higher income, and so Maine wouldn’t get that enhanced rate for parents from 100-138 percent of federal poverty who get covered through expansion.”
While Maine would only get a 60-percent federal match for about 15,000 parents on Medicaid, nearly 56,000 other patients would qualify for the higher federal reimbursement, according to a 2015 report by the Maine Health Access Foundation. Overall, expanding Medicaid would save the state $26.7 million, the report concluded.
Meanwhile, in a radio appearance Tuesday, the governor appeared to dispel rumors that he might be taking a job with the Trump administration following a secretive tour to Washington, D.C., last week, calling the rumors “wishful thinking on the parts of my adversaries.” Instead he said he was there to simply request that the Trump administration allow him to eliminate Medicaid for 25,000 low-income parents and young adults. Of course, as the governor’s communications director, Peter Steele, put it to reporters last week, “If there are any developments between Governor LePage and the Trump administration, the Maine media will be the last to know.” In the meantime, we’ve been submitting our questions for the governor to the George Hale and Ric Tyler Show.