LePage rips GOP health plan, calls Trump job rumors ‘wishful thinking’

Good morning from Augusta, where Gov. Paul LePage is back after a weeks-long trip through Florida and Washington, D.C.

But he’ll be headed back to the nation’s capital later this week to protest the House Republicans’ plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. LePage said he doesn’t like the plan as it was unveiled Monday.

“Right now I am very, very discouraged and disappointed with what House Republicans are introducing,” LePage said Tuesday during a radio interview on WVOM. “We don’t know what the cost is, but based on what I see and I’m reading and what has happened over the last 15 years, I don’t think it’s an improvement. I think we’re punting the ball, is what we’re doing.”

Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives released their long-awaited plan to replace the Affordable Care Act on Monday. It substitutes a system of tax credits and grants to states for federal subsidies and would wind down support for Medicaid expansion after 2020.

But it leaves in place many provisions of former President Barack Obama’s health care law — including the popular pieces that allow children to stay on parents’ health plans until age 26 and preventing insurers from charging people with pre-existing conditions more for coverage.

LePage said he supports the health insurance exchanges currently offered by the ACA because people can purchase their health insurance on a sliding scale.

“The exchanges are wonderful,” the Republican governor said. “[Patients] ought to have copays and ought to have consequences when they miss appointments. … There is nothing wrong with asking people who are able bodied to have skin in the game.”

But U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin, a Republican from Maine’s 2nd District, said in a late Monday statement that the new proposal will “bring much needed health insurance relief” to Mainers “suffocating” under increasing premiums under current law.

And Democrats aren’t showing any signs of accepting the plan, with U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree, a Democrat from Maine’s 1st District, saying it’ll cost many more.

“I expect my Republican colleagues not to forget the millions of Americans for whom the Affordable Care Act has been a lifesaver, including thousands in Maine who’ve shared their stories with me,” she said. — Christopher Cousins and Michael Shepherd

LePage on Trump administration rumors: ‘Wishful thinking’

On the radio, LePage also tried to end speculation that his extended visit to Washington had anything to do with him landing a job in Republican President Donald Trump’s administration, calling it “wishful thinking on the parts of my adversaries.”

It comes after LePage’s trip to Washington, during which staffers were often coy about where he was and released statements to different media outlets saying that while Trump admired LePage’s work in Maine, the media were eager to report on “juicy rumors and false innuendo.”

At the same time, spokespeople didn’t address specific questions about that innuendo, including after the Bangor Daily News heard that LePage could have been considered for a welfare or ambassador position.

But it looks like he’s here to stay, with speculation now turning toward whether he’ll challenge U.S. Sen. Angus King, an independent, in 2018, a question he has hemmed and hawed on for more than a year. Here’s your soundtrack. — Christopher Cousins and Michael Shepherd

Today in A-town

The Maine House of Representatives and Senate are in session and will convene jointly at 11 a.m. for a speech by Douglas Farnham, adjutant general of the Maine National Guard. The speech is an annual tradition and is designed to update Mainers on the state of the guard.

The Revisor of Statutes office is catching up on writing bills. There are dozens scheduled for referencing today to committees, according to both the House and Senate calendars.

On the House calendar is an interesting order: Rep. Owen Casas, I-Rockport, has proposed that the Legislature’s Transportation Committee conduct a study to determine the appropriate placement of vehicle charging stations along Maine’s highways. If approved, the committee would develop recommendations and deliver them next year.

The Senate will consider an order from Assistant Senate Minority Leader Nathan Libby, D-Lewiston, which would create the Task Force on Maine’s 21st Century Economy and Workforce to find ways to strengthen Maine’s economy. The task force would produce recommendations for the full Legislature by March of 2018.

As is usual for this time of year, legislative committees have a full docket of public hearings and work sessions. Among them is the Transportation Committee’s introduction of LD 306, which would begin to bring Maine into compliance with federal Real ID guidelines. To see today’s full committee schedule, click here. — Christopher Cousins

Quick hits

  • Hundreds attend addiction prevention conference in Augusta. The Maine Department of Health and Human Services and the National Safety Council hosted a conference Monday at the Augusta Civic Center to discuss ways to combat the state’s opioid addiction crisis. In 2016 Maine was one of five states to be given a “Making Progress” distinction by the National Safety Council for its efforts to fight abuse. Among other measures, Maine enacted a bill that limits the duration and quantities of opioid prescriptions and requires training for prescribers and dispensers, which are measures endorsed in a recent report by the U.S. Surgeon General. — Christopher Cousins
  • Bill to solve Real ID problems for veterans advances. A bill sponsored by Assistant House Majority Leader Jared Golden, D-Lewiston, which would guarantee veterans can access medical services at Pease Air National Guard base, received a unanimous committee endorsement Monday and is headed to the full Legislature for consideration. Since Feb. 1, approximately 500 Maine veterans who get their medical care at Pease, which is in New Hampshire, have not been able to use their Maine licenses to enter the base. LD 213 would pay for southern Maine veterans to get passport cards, which are a federally accepted form of ID. A House spokeswoman said the bill could come up for debate as early as Thursday. — Christopher Cousins
  • Susan Collins co-authors bill to protect sex abuse victims in athletics. Maine U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, a Republican, teamed up with Democratic U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California on Monday to introduce legislation that requires amateur athletics government bodies to report sex-abuse allegations to local or federal law enforcement agencies. The bill stems from recent allegations of sexual abuse made against personnel involved with U.S. gymnastics, swimming and Taekwondo teams. The bill would also install protocols and training that would make it safer and easier for victims to report abuse. The bill already has a long list of cosponsors and supporters. — Christopher Cousins

Reading list

Owl I explain this to my wife?

So I was bored, and I texted my kid: “Weird, someone told me you sound like an owl.”

He texted back: “When? I’ll get them.”



“Because he said you sounded like an owl.”

Frustrated, I texted my wife.

“What’s with someone you work with posting that you sound like an owl?” I wrote.

“Huh?! Who?”

“THEY WERE RIGHT!!!!!!!!!”

She was less than impressed. “Oh my gosh, are you drunk?” she wrote. “You need to find more productive things to do.”

I disagree. Back to the 12-year-old: “Not falling for that. Haha.”

Haha indeed. Here’s your soundtrack, babe. — Christopher Cousins

With tips, pitches, questions or feedback, email us at politics@bangordailynews.com. If you’re reading The Daily Brief on the BDN’s website or were forwarded it, click here to get Maine’s only newsletter on state politics and policy delivered via email every weekday morning.

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.