LePage: We could all have health care if…

Good morning from Augusta, where the Legislature’s Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Committee is gathering this morning at the State House to begin a fact-finding probe into a 2014 Maine Warden Service undercover investigation in the town of Allagash.

IF&W Commissioner Chandler Woodcock, Col. Joel Wilkinson of the warden service and Brenda Kielty, Maine’s public access ombudsman, are among the state officials scheduled to answer questions from lawmakers about the investigation and a series of news articles about it by the Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram.

Among the allegations in the articles are that an undercover warden used unethical methods in the course of months-long investigations into poaching and other crimes in the northern Maine town.

You’ll also see some headlines today out of the Katahdin region, where a congressional field hearing hosted by members of the U.S. House Committee on Natural Resources is being held about the prospect of President Barack Obama creating a national monument on a large swath of land being offered for the purpose by the family of millionaire philanthropist Roxanne Quimby.

The meeting — which will include an appearance by Gov. Paul LePage, who opposes the creation of a monument or national park in the Katahdin area — begins at 2 p.m. in East Millinocket, followed by a four-hour window for local stakeholders to have their say.

So far, opposition to the creation of the monument has been fierce and vocal, though some argue that a majority of Mainers favor the creation of the national monument. Among them is Democratic U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree, who on Tuesday wrote a letter to Obama in favor of the monument on the grounds that it would spur economic development in an area of Maine that desperately needs it. .

Later in the day, beginning at 5:30 p.m., LePage will host the latest installment of his mostly weekly town hall meetings in Millinocket. LePage’s town hall meeting, which is open to the public, will be held at Stearns Junior-Senior High School at 199 State Street in Millinocket.

That’s a lot of political action for one day, especially in the summertime. Watch bangordailynews.com for coverage of all of it. — Christopher Cousins

LePage: We could all have health care if…

Gov. Paul LePage used his weekly radio appearance on WVOM Tuesday to discuss health care in Maine and how we could all have access to it — with massive reforms to the system from the ground up.

“I think everybody should, can and will have it,” said LePage. “The problem is, we say that we’re a free-market system except that hospitals and insurance is a monopoly and we don’t really truly want to sit down and fix it. Everyone talks about access, access, access and talks about government, government, government paying for it and no one wants to sit down and talk about what’s a fair price for a fair service.”

LePage bemoaned wide gaps between what various hospitals in Maine charge for the same procedures and that Maine’s health care system, overall, is expensive compared to neighboring states.

“We have the quality of care but what we don’t have is the affordability,” said LePage, who then pivoted back to a familiar talking point for his administration. “We’re trying to lower the cost of education for our youth so they have more money to contribute to health care and the direction of our economy.”

LePage, a staunch opponent of virtually any expansion of taxpayer-funded health care, said he favors preventative medicine and public health initiatives that will keep people healthier and save money.

“If you’re sick, we pay doctors to get you healthy instead of paying doctors to keep you healthy. … I think we’d want to keep a society healthy instead of treating illness,” said the governor. “It’s not going to happen overnight.”

LePage’s comments somewhat contradict some of his moves against disease prevention and public health efforts. His administration is moving to reduce the role of Healthy Maine Partnerships, a consortium of 27 groups engaged in public health issues including tobacco use, drugs and obesity. The groups are funded by roughly $5 million from the Fund for a Healthy Maine, which derives from the proceeds from a 1998 class-action lawsuit against tobacco companies.

LePage proposed cuts to the partnerships in 2015 and is poised to alter many of the Healthy Maine Partnership Contracts when they expire next month. Earlier this year, his administration released a 75-page request for proposals aimed at shifting some of the tobacco settlement money toward preventing the use of alcohol and drugs.

While that focus is in reaction to a historic drug overdose epidemic in Maine, it is a change from the prior RFP for the Healthy Maine Partnerships, which called for programming and education around tobacco use, physical activity, nutrition and weight loss, substance abuse and chronic disease prevention, including cancer.

LePage said he views hospitals as businesses, not unlike department stores where the goal is to “attract people and then you get them on the upgrades.”

“If you keep them healthy, then the overall cost drops and the need for the infrastructure drops,” said LePage. “We have 39 hospitals sitting there waiting for people to get sick instead of working with people to keep them healthy.” — Christopher Cousins

Quick hits

  • Moody’s Investors Service and Standard & Poor’s Ratings Services issued a favorable report on  Maine’s credit rating Tuesday. The firms identified Maine’s stable economy, revenue growth and conservative budgeting practices in state government and the University of Maine system as reasons for the positive ratings, including an “Aa2” rating from Moody’s and a “AA” rating from S&P. The ratings will help Maine achieve favorable rates on $112 million in bond sales that will be completed this month for a number of infrastructure projects, according to a news release.
  • The second meeting of a blue ribbon commission on education funding, which was scheduled for June 6 in South Paris, has been postponed because of scheduling conflicts. Bill Beardsley, deputy commissioner for the department of education, said in a letter to the commission’s members last week that the meeting will be rescheduled.

Reading list

The opening act

Maybe you’ve heard that Journey and the Doobie Brothers are playing Bangor on June 22. But did you hear about the opening act?

I won’t be there because the concert is on a Wednesday night and now that I have children, concert tickets have become too expensive (the cost of tickets for my wife and me equals new shoes for both boys, and maybe two new outfits, and maybe some money in their college accounts, depending on the concert).

Anyway, it’s the opening act to this concert that I’d enjoy the most. Former Traffic frontman Dave Mason went on in his solo career to produce one of my all-time favorite albums, which is today’s soundtrack. Enjoy. — Christopher Cousins


Christopher Cousins

About Christopher Cousins

Christopher Cousins has worked as a journalist in Maine for more than 15 years and covered state government for numerous media organizations before joining the Bangor Daily News in 2009.