Maine Stakeholders Weigh In on GOP Health Care Proposal to Replace the ACA

Mar 7, 2017

A plan put forth by U.S. House Republican leaders to replace the Affordable Care Act is getting a mixed response from the members of Maine’s Congressional delegation, and from stakeholders closer to home.

If Republicans were hoping for a warm reception to the party’s plan to replace the Affordable Care Act. They would not get it from the governor of Maine.

“I am very, very discouraged and disappointed with what the House Republicans are introducing,” Gov. Paul LePage says, speaking to Bangor radio station WVOM. “Based on what I see and I’m reading, and what has happened here in Maine over the last 15 years, I don’t think it’s an improvement.”

LePage says he’s concerned about how the Republican plan would affect Maine’s aging population. He’s got company in independent Sen. Angus King.

“I’m disappointed in it,” King says. “I think it’s going to end up costing seniors, particularly, more money. And I don’t think it’s going to be as comprehensive — we could lose 10,000 or more people in Maine with insurance. I’ve got to look at the details, but so far, I don’t think it’s the answer.”

The GOP plan could affect seniors in a few ways. It allows insurance companies to charge older consumers premiums that are five times higher than those paid by younger consumers. The plan also restructures Medicaid from a program that provides open-ended federal funding to a per-capita cap program. Robyn Merrill of Maine Equal Justice Partners says caps on Medicaid funding are particularly concerning for a state like Maine.

“We have an aging population, and health care costs and needs are going to increase in the years to come,” Merrill says.

Increases in those caps would be tied to general inflation, not medical inflation, which grows faster she says. Ultimately, Merrill says, that means a capped program would shift Medicaid costs to states. And Merrill doesn’t see the proposal, as a replacement plan at all.

“The House plan is a cut in coverage, pure and simple,” she says.

Democratic Rep. Chellie Pingree also sees the GOP plan as a step backwards. Speaking on the House floor on Tuesday, she said Republicans failed to preserve the progress made by the Affordable Care Act.

“They’ve come up with a plan that will cost older Americans up to five times more than younger enrollees,” Pingree says. “It will charge the uninsured 30% more to buy coverage. It will defund — not defend — it will defund Planned Parenthood, cut Medicaid significantly, and still has no price tag.”

But Republican Rep. Bruce Poliquin says the GOP plan does retain key health policies that Americans now rely on. In a written statement, Poliquin pointed out that the plan allows young adults to stay on their parents’ insurance policies till age 26. It also bans discrimination against people with pre-existing conditions.

Republican Sen. Susan Collins also issued a written statement saying she's encouraged by consumer protections in the plan, as well as a cap on tax credits that prevent the wealthiest Americans from receiving subsidies.  But Collins says she has questions about how many Americans stand to gain or lose under the plan, and how much it would cost.

Though the GOP proposal has a cheerleader in Poliquin, it faces an uphill battle because its current iteration does not appear to have broad support on the hill.