For months, Maine’s 2nd District Rep. Bruce Poliquin has been hiding his position on House Republicans’ plans to overhaul the nation’s health care system. Now we know why.

He should be ashamed.

Poliquin sided with his party’s most extreme faction Thursday to vote for a bill that would, according to the last review by the Congressional Budget Office, strip health insurance from 24 million Americans by 2026. If the bill becomes law, it would take $600 billion out of the health care system to distribute as tax cuts for the wealthy – providing an average of $200,000 a year in benefits to those whose reported incomes puts them in the top 0.1 percent.

They would be the biggest winners. The biggest losers would be the poorest, oldest and sickest people in America, including many residents of Maine’s 2nd Congressional District, who are allegedly represented by Poliquin.

There is very little chance that the bill Poliquin supported will become law. Republicans in the U.S. Senate are already distancing themselves from it and plan to start their own bill from scratch. Even Poliquin admits that the House bill needs work. “I hope it comes back stronger and better,” he explained in a statement. “This simply moves this issue on to the Senate.”

But saying he was voting to simply to move the bill to the Senate makes as much sense as handing a loaded gun to a stranger and hoping he’ll be responsible. Poliquin should be held accountable for what’s in the reckless bill that he enthusiastically supported – not for what the Senate might do to improve it.


Even after announcing his support, Poliquin tried to hide from the bill’s real implications. He repeatedly claimed that it would “only” affect the 7 percent of Maine people who buy insurance through the Affordable Care Act exchanges. If that were true, that would mean that the measure would “only” affect the life and safety of about 80,000 Mainers.

But it’s not true, and what Poliquin says is so far from the real truth that it has to be called by its rightful name: It is a lie.

The Republicans’ American Health Care Act would drastically change Medicaid, putting states on the hook for future health care cost increases. There are 270,000 Mainers now on Medicaid (known here as MaineCare), three-quarters of whom are elderly, disabled or children. Capping the federal contribution to their care would mean that all Maine taxpayers would have to pay more, or that more of the neediest would have to go without care.

This is a change that would affect virtually everyone.

The House Republican plan would also defund Planned Parenthood, preventing the organization’s clinics from receiving Medicaid funding for services like checkups, cancer screenings and family planning. Stopping these payments would not cut the nation’s health care costs, but it would hurt Planned Parenthood, which is a leading provider of abortions – a procedure already ineligible for federal funding.

The zeal to use the government to interfere with a woman’s private exercise of a constitutional right has found its way into this health care bill, and will affect many more Maine women than the ones who buy health insurance on the exchanges. Poliquin knows this, yet he voted for the bill.


Poliquin also claims that existing Maine law passed before the Affordable Care Act would protect his constituents from the most onerous parts of the American Health Care Act. No insurance company can deny someone coverage because of a pre-existing condition in Maine, he says, or charge them more for their insurance.

That’s true, and those laws are what created the problems that a decade of bipartisan health care reformers tried to fix. Under those laws, every time premiums increased, younger and healthier people dropped coverage. As the remaining group of people with insurance got older and sicker, the premiums increased even more.

The ACA stabilized the market by requiring healthy people to join the pool, and subsidizing the costs of those with lower incomes. About 80,000 Mainers signed up for Obamacare (ACA) policies this year, and 87 percent of them received a subsidy. The House Republicans’ plan would slash the subsidy and end the requirement for people to buy insurance – again creating an incentive for the healthiest to go without coverage, making those who are left more expensive to insure.

The pressure is now on the Senate to produce a better alternative. Perhaps now that the House Republicans have been able to have their victory celebration in the White House, cooler heads can work on a health care overhaul that covers more people, not fewer, and reduces costs for everyone, not just those who don’t get sick.

But even if the Senate eventually manages to produce a reform package that is an improvement over the status quo, it would not vindicate Poliquin’s support for this dangerous piece of legislation.

At least the people of the 2nd District know where Poliquin stands on this important issue. He is finally on the record and can’t hide anymore.

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