Wednesday April 06, 2011 | 06:58 PM

Maine members of Congress, Democrats and Republicans, aren’t showing a lot of enthusiasm for the House GOP budget proposal that seeks to radically revamp Medicare and Medicaid to help reduce federal spending and pay down the debt.

As might be expected, Democratic Reps. Chellie Pingree of the 1st district and Mike Michaud of the 2nd district are critical of the House GOP budget plan, which would turn Medicaid, the health care program for the poor, into a block grant program run by the states. The House GOP plan would transform Medicare, the health care program for seniors, from a government-run program into one in which people, starting with those currently under 55 years old, buy coverage from private health insurers and pay more for more benefits.
 
"I am very opposed to the Republican budget proposal for a number of reasons but the biggest is that it will essentially end Medicare as we know it,” Pingree said in a statement.  “Medicare is an extremely effective and absolutely essential program and we should be focusing on ways to strengthen it, not end it. We need to find ways to reduce the deficit, but not at the expense of this critical program for seniors.”
 
Michaud said he is all for cutting spending and reducing the debt, “But I’m concerned about how the proposed budget caps will affect the increasing needs of the” Department of Veterans Affairs. “And I question some of the priorities in the bill and the approaches it takes,” Michaud said. “For example, the budget plan ends Medicare’s guaranteed benefit while at the same time continuing tax breaks for millionaires, big oil, and companies that ship jobs overseas.”
 
Still, Michaid said that, “While I might not agree with all that’s in it, I am hopeful this proposal forces a much-needed discussion about our national debt and how we can reduce it. Congress can no longer afford to stick its head in the sand and wish our budget problems away.”
 
On the latter point, Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine expressed a similar sentiment, without saying whether she supports the House GOP plan and while taking a jab at President Obama.
 
“Whether one agrees with (House Budget Committee Chairman) Congressman (Paul) Ryan’s proposals or not, he deserves credit for putting forth a serious and comprehensive plan,” Collins said of the Wisconsin Republican who authored the plan. “I wish the President would likewise demonstrate serious leadership in addressing our urgent fiscal challenges.”
 
Republican Sen. Olympia Snowe of Maine was openly critical of the House GOP proposal. “Given Maine has the oldest population of any state in the nation, any proposals representing profound changes to these critical safety net programs would require serious and rigorous scrutiny,” Snowe said in a statement. “Ultimately, it is vital that we do not solve our fiscal problems by burdening our seniors who played no role in creating the fiscal morass that Washington created.” 

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Kevin Miller is Washington bureau chief for the Portland Press Herald and MaineToday Media. He has worked as a journalist in Maine for 6 ½ years, covering the environment, politics and the State House. Before arriving in Maine, he wrote about politics, government and education for newspapers in Virginia and Maryland.
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