Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Maine Republican On The Health Care Hot Seat: Bruce Poliquin

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Bruce Poliquin (R-ME) is the only Republican representing a House district in New England. He's a rich guy who began his political campaign by self-fundng a race for governor-- and not just losing to crackpot Paul LePage but coming in 6th out of 7 Republicans in the primary! LePage gave him the job as state treasurer. In 2012 he lost another GOP primary, this one for the U.S. Senate seat given up by Olympia Snowe. in 2014 he finally found an election he could win-- the conservative Maine congressional seat (ME-02) which was being vacated by Blue Dog Mike Michaud. The DCCC nominated a pointless centrist EMILY's List nothing (Emily Cain), allowing the district to flip blue to red-- 133,320 (45.2%) to 118,568 (40.2%). Last year the DCCC came up with one of their typically brilliant strategies for winning back the seat, running the same nothing candidate, Emily Cain, again. She then lost 192,878 (54.8%) to 159,081 (45.2%).

The district includes all of Maine north of Portland and Augusta-- all of Androscoggin, Aroostook, Franklin, Hancock, Oxford, Penobscot, Piscataquis, Somerset, Waldo and Washington counties and part of Kennebec. Trump lost Maine but won ME-02 by over 10 points-- 41.4% to 41.1%. Hillary was the wrong candidate for the district. In fact, she lost every single county in the district to Bernie in the caucuses-- some with less than 30% of the vote. Poliquin voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act and replace it with TrumpCare, making him extremely vulnerable to defeat next year. Luckily, the DCCC hasn't recruited Cain again for 2018-- at least not yet-- and they seem OK with an excellent progressive who seems about to jump into the race, the Assistant Majority Leader of Maine's House of Representatives, Jared Golden. An ex-Marine who saw active duty in Afghanistan, Golden seems like just the kind of candidate who can defeat Poliquin. His record is pro-Choice, pro-LGTQ equality, pro-Labor and pro-environment. He's the one who wrote Maine's automatic voter registration bill we wrote about in May. His legislative record-- not just votes but leadership-- indicate he'd be an excellent new member of Congress, something the Democrats need badly. When I asked her about him, Shenna Bellows, a big fan, suggested I read this OpEd he wrote for the Bangor Daily News: Asylum-seekers are part of Maine’s turnaround, not political pawns. So... good on the courageousness metric as well. A well-connected friend of mine in Lewiston told me that "As whip in the Democratic-led House, he consistently worked behind the scenes for a more progressive approach on the tough budget issues and some of the other bills we dealt with this year. A progressive marine who has the courage of his convictions is exactly the type of representative we need in these perilous times. Jared was tireless about advocating for a more progressive approach."

Yesterday, just as the Senate was getting ready to vote on proceeding with TrumpCare, Poliquin-- who, remember, voted for the Freedom Caucus version of TrumpCare that would kick 23 million Americans off health insurance-- issued a statement to his constituents opposing the repeal of the Affordable Care Act without a replacement, which tries threading a difficult needle for Republican incumbents, opposing Obamacare without embracing the consequences of repealing it. His political career will depend on whether or not he can persuade Maine voters he's making any sense.
“In light of what we have seen over the last several months, once again, I cannot support the repeal of the ACA without a viable replacement. Changes in insurance markets are complex. Many fellow Mainers are impacted either as policy holders or due to the ACA regulations on their private individual or employer coverage. We shouldn't forget that thousands of Maine families were forced into Obamacare either because of the threat of an IRS penalty, or because their own policies were cancelled under Obamacare's red tape regulations. We simply cannot tell these people they will now have no access to insurance because of inaction by the U.S. Senate.

“Let’s be clear, Obamacare is not working despite what some proponents of the status quo would have us believe. During six years of growing problems, the ACA has cost taxpayers billions and billions of dollars. Its roll-out nearly failed under collapsing taxpayer-funded insurance exchanges. Thousands of Maine families lost their choice of doctors and health plans even though career politicians promised they could keep them. Monthly premiums and annual deductibles under Obamacare have been increasing by double digits year-after-year-after-year. Some ignore or forget these straightforward facts, but the rollout and implementation of Obamacare has not performed as sold.

“Part of the ACA law has been the rapid expansion of the medical welfare program, called Medicaid, or MaineCare in our State, to able-bodies adults with no dependents. We need to be honest about how Medicaid is an open-ended program with no budget which continues to grow beyond the taxpayers' ability to pay for the health care benefits. It's simply not sustainable.

"Medicaid started as a welfare program designed to provide health care to those truly in need—such as children, the disabled, and the elderly who can’t afford to contribute to Medicare. Hard-working Mainers and retirees understand that limited Medicaid, or MaineCare, dollars should be reserved for those who are the most at risk rather than for those who are not disabled, have no dependents, and can purchase their own health insurance. Congress should be working to lower the cost of private insurance so that people can afford it instead of asking the government, our taxpayers, to subsidize more and more medical welfare.

"Medicaid, or MaineCare, should be put on a financially sustainable path so it can continue to provide for those who need it most for generations to come. Continuing to add childless able-bodied adults on welfare only helps trap them in government dependency and poverty while further straining state and federal budgets. Welfare funding is not free. Welfare dollars are paid by hard-working American taxpayers. Not long ago, Maine taxpayers were forced to pay-off a massive $750 million welfare debt to Maine hospitals because of an earlier MaineCare expansion to able-bodied adults with no kids. For years, this accumulating mountain of debt crowded out state government's ability to adequately fund road and bridge repairs, border protection, public safety, and the fight against our devastating opioid and heroin epidemic.

“We also need to be honest about the robust list of essential health care benefits already, and still, required to be included in any insurance policy sold in Maine, no matter what Congress does or does not do. For many years, Maine has required this strong coverage—well before Obamacare became law. Any replacement of the ACA will not change the fact that Maine still will require these same health insurance protections.

“Job-killing taxes and layers of regulations should not be the standard by which health insurance is measured. Government needs to support a sustainable free market system which lowers the cost of health insurance by providing incentives for providers to compete for our business. This will result in more plan choices and lower costs.

"Moving to a complete government takeover of our health care system is a bad idea. The enormous "single-payer" socialist bureaucracy would further drive up costs and ration health care services. The United States leads the world in health care innovation. Stifling that free market success would result in worse health care for all. Health care is more complex now than ever before. Adding additional layers of government bureaucracy and red tape would only make matters worse.

“Maine and America needs to ensure there's a responsible, sustainable health insurance plan in place before Obamacare is repealed. That common sense approach is only fair to our families struggling to afford coverage whether it be an Obamacare policy or not.

“We need to ensure we have a plan in place, a glide path, to a new fiscally responsible and sustainable solution. Repeal without replace does not accomplish that mission.”

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