MAINE GOV. PAUL LEPAGE speaks at a town hall meeting on Wednesday in Yarmouth.

MAINE GOV. PAUL LEPAGE speaks at a town hall meeting on Wednesday in Yarmouth.


Gov. Paul LePage ripped the Republicans’ new federal health care proposal, saying in a letter to House Speaker Paul Ryan that the country needs a truly conservative, free-market replacement of former President Barack Obama’s signature legislation.

In the Tuesday letter, LePage says he’s not encouraged by the House GOP proposal to replace the Affordable Care Act, also known as “Obamacare.” He says it appears congressional Republicans are “catering to big-government lobbyists and politicians in states that took Obamacare’s welfare-expansion bait.”

“The only way you will truly repeal and replace — and reform — Obamacare is if you act with as much boldness as those who created it,” LePage said.

Under the Affordable Care Act, states that accept expanded Medicaid receive a generous federal match, gradually phasing down to 90 percent. The expansion covers people with incomes up to 138 percent of the federal poverty line, or about $16,640 for an individual.

The House GOP plan ends the higher federal match for Medicaid expansion beneficiaries, starting in 2020. Then, each state would receive a limited, perbeneficiary amount based on enrollment and costs.

The Maine governor wants a complete rollback of Medicaid expansion for non-disabled adults and criticized the new proposal for retaining the Medicaid expansion in the first couple of years.

LePage said rather than the House plan’s spending proposal, block grants would let states prioritize a “smaller but costlier population” instead of spreading Medicaid dollars among more people.

He wants Medicaid recipients to pay insurance premiums and copays and to be assessed fees when they miss medical appointments. He also wants a limit on assets a person can have to qualify for Medicaid.

The governor, who grew up speaking English as a second language in a severely impoverished family of 18 children, called himself a “walking symbol of the American dream” and said his transition from childhood homelessness to managing one of his state’s most respected businesses “had absolutely nothing to do with government handouts.”

“That is the story I tell limousine liberals who say I don’t have empathy for the poor because I veto Medicaid expansion bills,” he said.

A ballot initiative to expand Medicaid is set for the Maine ballot in November, and LePage has criticized the push by “socialist activists and welfare lobbyists.”

“The House Republican plan would allow Maine to expand Medicaid eligibility, then leave more costs to the state in the out-years,” he said.

Maine expanded Medicaid 15 years ago, and LePage said doing so led to a $750 million debt to hospitals that he said his administration has paid off.

LePage this week praised another component of Obama’s health care law: government-run health insurance exchanges.

He told Ryan that Maine has cut Medicaid enrollment by 86,000 nondisabled adults. He says from 2011 to 2015, the uninsured rate dropped from 10.7 to 8.4 percent.

“This is why I have no objection to continuing a system of private insurance premium assistance for low-income workers,” he said.

His administration has asked Republican President Donald Trump’s administration to greenlight such ideas in Maine.

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