Mike Michaud has an Obamacare problem.

No, he’s not one of more than 10,000 Mainers whose insurance plans – which they liked – were outlawed because of it. No, he’s not a private-practice physician about to be forced out of business by it. And, no, he’s not a business owner struggling with its regulatory uncertainty, skyrocketing premiums and painful taxes.

But he is an original supporter of the Affordable Care Act, and he happens to be running for governor in a state where that controversial law is unpopular.

A TOUGH VOTE TO JUSTIFY

Michaud voted for the health care law and has voted to defend it on dozens of occasions. Outside of the D.C. swamp, back here in Maine, Michaud will have to defend the amorphous bureaucratic monstrosity that is Obamacare.

Remarkably, Michaud claims to have read the bill. In a statement explaining his vote March 23, 2010, Michaud said he was voting after “thoroughly reading and reviewing” the entire bill.

If you believe Michaud read thousands of pages of bureaucratic gobbledygook before casting his vote, there’s some oceanfront property in Penobscot County I’d like to sell you.

None of the promises Michaud made about the law has come to fruition.

He said his vote would “help us move closer to more affordable and stable health care coverage.” However, premiums are increasing with no end in sight, folks are losing their insurance left and right and businesses and medical professionals face a more uncertain future than ever.

In his statement, Michaud said he had “already started” work on improvements.

All right, Mike, where are those improvements you promised four years ago? Point us to the bill you co-sponsored. Surely voters will hear about it on the campaign trail, right?

BAD NEWS WILL CONTINUE

A pioneer of sorts, Michaud advertised Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion deal as something it incontestably was not.

He said Maine would receive additional financial support and flexibility when expanding Medicaid because of previous expansions. Exactly the opposite was true. Because of previous expansions, Maine would have been punished with a lower reimbursement rate relative to other states had we expanded; federal demands proved inflexible.

Liberals might be tempted to think the much-ballyhooed milestone of 8 million enrollees means Michaud’s in the clear. Guess again. The law is anticipated to deliver a steady stream of bad news for Democrats for the foreseeable future.

Federal bean-counters have thus far based the success of the law on the number of people who have selected plans at HealthCare.gov. “Selected,” as distinct from “purchased.” The number that really counts is premium payment, especially if you’re a medical provider.

Hospitals will pay claims made by those who say they bought insurance at HealthCare.gov even if they haven’t paid their first premium – but that agreement stood only for the first month after open enrollment ended March 31. Providers cannot inquire about payment status, but if the patient has not paid the first premium, the insurer is under no obligation to pay.

Nationally, some experts are projecting that 15 to 20 percent of enrollees will never pay a premium. How big a problem this is for Maine depends on Maine’s payment rate and circumstance, but providers are understandably concerned.

Physicians operating private practice will face an additional difficulty, one that threatens to bankrupt them. The reimbursement rates they get under most plans available to Mainers at HealthCare.gov are so low – near Medicare rates – it will be difficult for many to stay profitable.

On the patient side, Mainers can look forward to sharp climbs in both small-group and individual premiums. A federal report released this year said 65 percent of small businesses would see a rise in health insurance premiums and that those costs would likely be passed on to workers and their families.

MICHAUD SHARES THE BLAME

More people may lose their health insurance plans, too. A little-known rule under consideration would prevent insurers from selling fixed-benefit plans – bare-bones plans that are used to supplement an existing plan or when comprehensive coverage is too expensive.

In sum, Democrats will soon wish a dysfunctional website was their worst problem.

As the law continues to unfold (or unravel), people’s lives and livelihoods will be negatively impacted, and Michaud deserves part of the blame. He helped unleash Obamacare on Maine, and that vote bears hugely on his ability to govern.

Michaud voted for a massive upheaval of the American economy via a perverse bureaucratic apparatus that he clearly did not understand. He promised to fix it. He didn’t. That tells us everything we need to know about what he’d do in the Blaine House.

Steven E. Robinson is editor of TheMaineWire.Com and a policy analyst for the Maine Heritage Policy Center. He can be contacted at:

[email protected]

Twitter: @Stevie_Rob