Democratic U.S. Rep. Jared Golden laid out on Tuesday what he called his “health care road map.”

During last year’s tough 2nd Congressional District race, “I told Mainers I would work to help make good health care available and affordable for everyone,” Golden said.

“Today, I’m following through with my health care road map, a common-sense plan to lower costs and expand access to care in the short term and move toward a universal health care system in the long term,” Golden said in a prepared statement.

The steps he proposed range from tweaks to the Affordable Care Act to universal coverage under a Medicare for all proposal that he endorsed on the campaign trail – a plan the Maine GOP has called a “risky health care scheme that would end Medicare as we know it and create massive tax increases.”

Golden also threw his support behind a proposal to make Maine and other states that refused to expand Medicaid eligible for temporary subsidies to assist with the additional financial cost of providing coverage to more people.

“We need to take action right now to help Maine people facing crushing health care costs,” Golden said. “That’s why my plan focuses on strengthening the Affordable Care Act, safeguarding protections for people with pre-existing conditions, maximizing Medicaid expansion in Maine, and making prescription drugs more affordable.”

One of the bills Golden endorsed, which counts Democratic Rep. Chellie Pingree of Maine’s 1st Congressional District as an original backer, would help Maine fund the expansion of Medicaid by providing more federal dollars to ease the transition to a bigger program.

When the federal government initially pushed for states to expand their Medicaid programs to cover low-income residents who earned no more than 138 percent of the federal poverty level, it offered them a lure: For the first three years, federal taxpayers would pick up the entire extra cost.

The subsidy gradually trailed off until the sixth year, when states received 90 percent reimbursement, the normal rate for the Medicaid program.

The deadline to accept that deal passed in 2014, so the sweetener no longer applies to states such as Maine that joined the expansion program late. Maine expanded its program this year after voters endorsed it in 2017.

Golden’s proposal, which a number of other legislators also are advocating, would open the door to the same terms that Maine initially rejected because Gov. Paul LePage firmly opposed the expansion of Medicaid.

It’s an idea that’s been around for awhile. Sen. Angus King of Maine, an independent, backed a similar bill in 2016 that failed to win congressional support.

“States that choose to expand Medicaid for their most vulnerable citizens should not be penalized for making that decision later than others,” King said at the time.

Golden’s bid to allow people between the ages of 50 and 65 to buy into Medicare is another idea drawing considerable attention on Capitol Hill as a way to let older workers get insurance at a reasonable cost.

Not everyone agrees.

Chip Kahn, president of the Federation of American Hospitals, released a statement that said allowing a Medicare buy-in “would harm more Americans than it would help” by weakening “the coverage options of people who currently depend on the individual insurance market, leaving them with fewer choices.”

Golden also renewed his support for the Medicare For All concept that has garnered strong support from his party’s presidential candidates and a growing number of lawmakers. He vowed to co-sponsor the bill when it’s introduced.

Given that President Trump has vehemently opposed the concept, it is a measure that almost certainly cannot take effect until there is someone new in the Oval Office.

“I won’t mislead people about the road ahead,” Golden said. “It’s unlikely to happen overnight. But pushing for universal health coverage is the right thing to do, and it’s the right direction for America.”

Trump wrote in an op-ed a few months ago that a Medicare For All plan “would inevitably lead to the massive rationing of health care” as people flood the system since they would no longer have to pay for using doctors and hospitals.

Golden, however, said that bold change is required.

“That’s why I believe we must one day find a way to achieve universal coverage in America,” the first-term lawmaker said.

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