A political spat over health care

It would be fair to say that Gov. Paul LePage is not thrilled with Congresswoman Chellie Pingree. It would be equally fair to say that Pingree is not overly happy with LePage, either.

Their philosophical disagreements about health care (and countless other things) didn’t begin on Monday, but Monday may have marked the start of a fierce battle of will between these two.

That was the day that Pingree sent a lengthy letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius asking her to “reaffirm federal regulations prohibiting big cuts in the Medicaid program in Maine.”

That’s Congress-speak for “Tell Gov. LePage he can’t cut Medicaid.”

The letter, at least from LePage’s perspective, was an intentional play to interfere with Maine’s efforts to earn a federal waiver of Medicaid eligibility requirements. Maine will need that waiver to implement the recently passed state budget that trims existing Medicaid services.

On Wednesday, after a day to collect himself, LePage wrote to Sebelius and asked her — very nicely — to ignore Pingree’s letter, which he described as an “opinion piece.” And, not so nicely, he suggested that Pingree’s letter contained “false” information, and encouraged Sebelius and her staff to consider Maine’s not-yet-filed submission for waiver in a “full, fair and equitable review, free of political interference.”

LePage saved his more direct approach for Pingree, who also got a letter Wednesday.

In that letter, LePage expressed his deep disappointment to Pingree that she would write to Sebelius seeking to undermine the state Legislature’s efforts.

“It appears,” he wrote,” that you have become part of the jet-setting Washington culture that keeps people dependent on government handouts.”

He chastised her, writing, “While you might not like the welfare reforms made by the Maine Legislature, it is astounding that you would actively advocate for the federal government to overrule Maine’s decision.”

There’s more, including a terse accusation that Pingree sings “from the same old songbook: raise taxes, raise the debt ceiling, and use the power of the federal government to order around Americans and the states. It is time to stop.”

LePage, fairly enough, wrote to Pingree before writing to Sebelius, although the difference in delivery time may have been a matter of minutes.

He assured Pingree he would copy her on the Sebelius letter, “despite the fact that it is a courtesy you have not extended to us,” and challenged her to rethink her position and “work with the state you claim to represent.”

Zinga!

Hours after receiving that letter, Pingree issued a press release saying it was never her intention “for this to be a personal dispute with Governor LePage.”

Really? Hard to believe that when, instead of first speaking directly with LePage, she wrote to Sebelius asking that LePage — and Maine’s forthcoming waiver request — be ignored. And, then, after receiving LePage’s letter Wednesday, instead of responding to him directly, she issued a press statement to announce she had no intention of backing down.

“The health care reform law was debated and passed by Congress, signed by the president and upheld by the Supreme Court. It’s time to stop fighting about the health care law and start following it,” Pingree wrote.

One must wonder what Sebelius thinks of this public spat.

We expect the volley between LePage and Pingree to continue, because the political posturing has just gotten too pointed to drop.

What makes this all the more interesting is that they’re jabbing at each other before Maine’s Department of Health and Human Services has even filed for a waiver allowing the state to tighten Medicaid eligibility requirements, which will cut some benefits for Maine’s elderly, disabled and low-income parents, and eliminate MaineCare coverage for 19- and 20-year-olds.

It's likely to get even uglier once the request for waiver is active, especially since the Obama Administration has made it clear for months that it was unlikely to grant such a waiver.

You can say what you want about LePage and Pingree, but LePage’s opposition to the Affordable Care Act and his resolve to force health care changes in Maine, and Pingree’s clear and active intention to stand in the way, is grabbing attention from the electorate. This may be the very issue that we need to reverse voter apathy and reinvigorate citizen debate.

Given that health care professions are the fastest growing job segment in this country and that the cost of care is rising, as are the numbers of poor and elderly patients in need of care, how we shape our future health care system matters for everyone. Not just the sick.

jmeyer@sunjournal.com

The opinions expressed in this column reflect the views of the ownership and the editorial board.

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Comments

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

Pingree taking on LePage is

Pingree taking on LePage is the equivalent of showing up to a gunfight wearing a peashooter in your holster.

AL PELLETIER's picture

GUNFIGHT?

Hey Pirate, thanks. I always thought Lepage had a PEE SHOOTER in his pants and when he draws it's straight from the hip.

Jonathan Albrecht's picture

Compare LePage and Romney

In regulator filings some under the penalty of perjury, Bain Capital and Willard M. Romney under his signature and statements between 1999 and 2002 is characterized as either CEO, President, Sole-owner of Bain Capital and other corporations wholly owned by Bain Capital or he is retired from Bain Capital even though he was still collecting his salary as President and CEO or he is on paid leave from Bain Capital with no management role. Well you can't be all those things simutaneously. One, or two, or all those statements are lies told to suit Mr. Romney's situation at the time. They show a man who while personally very moral disassociates his morality from his business and political life. He has no core, no central beliefs that reach to all parts of his life the very definition of a sociopath. A common condition on the right.

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

Whom would the all insightful

Whom would the all insightful Mr. Albrecht consider to be a worthy Republican opponent to go up against the venerable Mr. oBAMa for the presidency? Or, are they all corrupt liars and only democrats are honest and pure as he would have us believe?

Jonathan Albrecht's picture

Now Paul you really wouldn't want me to name them

The Party presented such an array of great candidates this cycle - the pizza guy, the shulker, the I don't remember the third one, and above all the collection of "I can not only put the whole nation asleep, I can put myself to sleep with any one of my speaches". Or was Ann Coulter right; nominate Romney and you lose, nominate Christie and you win.
Personally I think a Party should be true to its deepest principles and not deceive the voting public so how about - Allen "there is a communist under every bed" West, or Joe "I hate my constituents" Walsh. The Governor of Mississippi comes to mind. Scott Walker the Koch brothers employee or Governor Scott of Florida the one who stole hundreds of millions from Medicare and is now trying to steal the 2012 Presidential election in Florida. There is such a wide range of talented folks its hard to think who best represents the Republican Party.
Republicans have just perfected the propaganda campaign; democrats still have to work at it.

Mark Wrenn's picture

abortion

I think they're anxious to put the 1999 to 2002 period behind them. That's when Rmoney was sole stockholder, CEO, Chairman, grand poobah, etc... of Bain. It's also during that period that Bain invested in Stericycle, which disposed of aborted fetuses. Rmoney was basically supporting and getting richer off of abortions.

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

I should think a left wing

I should think a left wing pro-choicer like yourself, Lil, would be supportive of Romney or any entrepreneur propagating abortions.

Jonathan Albrecht's picture

Amnesia - conservatives best friend

Unpaided for new programs. Expensive new social programs. Unpaid for wars. Financial collapse. If conservatives didn't suffer from chronic amnesia, they would go mad. So how's that different, they are mad.

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

What did old man Kennedy get

What did old man Kennedy get rich off of? How about John Edwards; how did he get rich? And John Kerry--he got rich the old fashioned way; he married it.
If Bain is all you guys have to throw at Romney, you're pissin' in the wind.

Jonathan Albrecht's picture

That hurt

Kennedy - criminal activity during prohibition; Edwards - defending the defensless and winning, and yes marrying wealth.
Check the polls; Bain is killing Romney because the average person doesn't like to see a billionaire gaming the system for his own personal profit and then lying about it.
The question now is; will the Republicans drop Romney before the Convention. Is he so damaged that defeat is certain. Hope they don't. very week there will be another embarassing revelation until he releases all tax returns from 1999 on and explains exactly what he has done with his wealth. He will do neither because the revelation is more damaging than the speculation.

AL PELLETIER's picture

Tax returns

Jonathon, just heard on the news, Romney privately released 23 years of tax returns when he was being vetted by the Mcain for president folks and was rejected in favor of Palin. I suspect Romney had too many skeletons in his closet to be helpful on that ticket..
Romney has been running for president for almost 4 years and has made sure his tax returns for the past two years are squeaky clean. I say release 10 years of tax returns, hell, Obama had to go back to his origin of birth to make republicans happy.

Mark Wrenn's picture

good one

That's a good one! I can see how Kerry getting rich off of ketchup is equal to Rmoney investing in and profiting from abortion, at least he didn't offshore it all. Bain appears to be Rmoney's sole justification for running for president. If he doesn't open up and come clean about it, he's going to be repeatedly hammered and humiliated by it.

Jonathan Albrecht's picture

Let's get to the heart of the matter

The Governor has a worldview so out-of-touch with even the most obvious reality that his ability to function in the office should be very much questioned. His "the IRS as Gestapo" statement and his "...you have become part of the jet-setting Washington culture that keeps people dependent on government handouts.” insulting characterization of Congresswoman Pingree are cut from the same cloth and are equally insane.
Our nation's problem is that the 1% are on strike; they will not pay taxes (they pay less than a third of what they did just 50 years ago. They hid their income and assets in the Caymen Islands and Swiss Bank accounts.); they are moving jobs out of this country even when they can't make a profit doing so; their actions border on, but don't quite reach yet, treason. We have no problem paying for the care and serves that our citizens have earned if taxes return to a fair level.
The right-wing extremists have replaced our Constitution with the Capitalist fundamentalism of Ayn Rand and the economic fantasies of Hayek. As they drag our nation down pluging us into the third-world they will replace the fantasy of dependence with the reality of empoverishment for us while they enjoy elevators for their cars.

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

Those nasty rich people;

Those nasty rich people; they're so awful. Let's all work for less or nothing so we can keep from becoming rich like those evil monsters.

Bickford Wiles's picture

Out of Touch

Well, its plainly clear how out of touch some people are about the state of affairs.The liberal unions have been given too many incentives and intitlements which has outsourced businesses.The federal governments attempt to take an unfair piece of someone elses pie,by raising taxes to pay for unneeded regulators has also contributed to this demise.The stock market is doing well,not because of Obama,but because the business over-seas is doig well.Those who despise wealth are those who won't work for it.

Jonathan Albrecht's picture

So the Governor has a roomate for AMHI

This is the most ridiculous charge of the insane right. 12% of American workers are unionized and in their peak unions represented about a third of workers. Most of the unionized workers have government jobs - police, fire, public service. So less than 6% of private sector employees are unionized.
No union president made the decision to outsource jobs. Those decisions were made by Mitt Romney and other business owners not because of union incentives and entitlements what ever they are but because they wanted to cut costs by using low cost slaves in countries like China or because they wanted the freedom to ignore worker rights.
"The federal governments attempt to take an unfair piece of someone elses pie,by raising taxes..." Nothing could be more delusional. Federal income taxes are 1/3 of what they were in 1954. Romney is the classic example. Had he started Bain in 1954 he would have paid 52% of his earnings in Federal income taxes and Bain 40% of their 88% profit rate. Now Romney pays less than 14% and Bain if it pays any should be around 8%.
"Business over-seas is doing well". This is what I mean by an ability to say anything no matter how irrational to defend an indefensible position with a lie. Europe is in a panic. Business in Greece, Spain, Portugal, and Ireland is either in collapse or about to collapse depending on which day you look at the news. Unemployment is in double digits. England has fallen into a second recession. China growth has fallen below the level it needs to feed its populace. China fears a recession and talk on Wall Street is about how large a stimulus the Chinese government will implement to avoid it. The stock market is doing well because of record setting profits in America and no federal income taxes.

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

Last I heard, Romney had done

Last I heard, Romney had done nothing to establish current tax rates.

MARK GRAVE's picture

For decades we knew those

For decades we knew those promises could not be kept, but people still bought into them anyway.

This is the time of reckoning. Our entitlement system is in the beginning stages of correction. I say, about time.

Jason Theriault's picture

Couple o things

1. It's Bazinga. Not Zinga

2. Why should Pingree extend any courtsey to LePage. LePage has prided himself on being a rude jerk. Hell, Pingree should take a page out of his book, and tell him to go to hell.

Respect is a two way street, and since he has shown none to democrats, why does he expect them to show any to him?

Bickford Wiles's picture

Liberal Thikers

Pingree is being insubbordinate,period.Its is time the electorate fall in line with their Boss and the people.The time for federal bailouts should end,since the Feds are broke.Liberals need to see outside the box.Just giving services away,free of charge is not productive.The health care system is a mess that can't be repaired with a pipe dream such as the Affordable Care Act.Just the title alone is in dreamland.It is sad to see our seniors suffer after a life of hard work and be rewarded by promises not kept by the establishment.

Jason Theriault's picture

No, I don't think so.

Well, then it's time for LePage to fall in line with the Boss, President Obama.

Wait, Obama isn't LePage's boss?

Just like how LePage isn't Pingree's boss.

BTW - Whats a "Thiker"?

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

Stig has never dropped a

Stig has never dropped a letter or two here and ther?

Bickford Wiles's picture

Liberal Thinking

Evidently you don't know chain-of- command.Don't be a pigeon head and THINK.
Pingree should be working with the Governor for the well being of the State and its inhabitants, instead,like Obama, worry about re-election 24-7.Welfare needs reform and it needs to start somewhere.
Obama is not a leader,he is a divider.

AL PELLETIER's picture

OK, I can't stay out of this comment

Pingree should ABSOLUTELY not be working with the Gov.. Go take a course in civics, Mr. Wiles. She should be working with her constituents and not be beholding to anybody but them. Your comment reads like it came from a pigeon head, (you said it first).
By the way, I ain't crazy about her either, but what it is, is what it is.

Jason Theriault's picture

"The single most important

"The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president."-
Sen. Mitch McConnell, in an interview with the National Journal's Major Garrett on Oct. 29, 2010

No, the GOP is the one working on dividing. I'm not saying the democrats are being magnanimous, but they are clearly less than the Republican's are. Hell, I'm not even saying they need to be. The were elected on their strong beliefs, and if they feel they can't compromise, thats ok. However, don't point fingers saying the reason things aren't getting done is because of Obama.

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

But it's the truth. Why is it

But it's the truth. Why is it so hard to swallow?

Bickford Wiles's picture

Honest McConnell

Yes, isn't that always the strategy,to oust the ruling Party? Name one Legal docket that has left the Democratic Senate within the last year.;danm few if any.Hell, the senate won't agree with their own Budget,if they even know how to devise one. the Senate gives final passage to a Bill,Am I not correct? November can't come Soon enough!

Jason Theriault's picture

Just don't point a finger

But it isn't usually job one. That said, pointing a finger at Obama for "dividing" the country, when one group says their primary job is to oust him is pretty bad.

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

It's oBAMa who's telling

It's oBAMa who's telling black people he has their backs and asking if they have his. He's not doing that with white audiences. Is that not divisive?
You know, we listened to the left whine about and undermine Bush for eight years. Did you think the right was just going to roll up in a fetal position and go nitety night when oBAMa was annointed? Making him a one term president is crucial to the survival of our country.

Bickford Wiles's picture

The Resposible One

Yes, It is easy to point a finger at the trouble maker.I don't see George W. close at hand.The Republicans are merely trying to protect the forgotten U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights.If that looks like an attack on your precious leader,then so be it.

Jason Theriault's picture

Now your just being silly.

the "forgotten" U.S. Constitution? Come on now. If you want to have a logical debate, that's one thing. If you're going to be all silly, I'll just stop responding and you can go crazy all by yourself.

Both sides love America, just have different opinions of how to govern.

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

"Both sides love America,

"Both sides love America, just have different opinions of how to govern".
One side wants to govern it in accordance with the Constitution; the other wants to govern by the book of Marx.

Bickford Wiles's picture

Serious People

oK, Jason, So you think the anoited one is governing fine?Give me one good thing he has done for the country.And don't be silly!

AL PELLETIER's picture

I'm back (can't stand to stay away)

Taking out Osama Bin Forgotten is one. How about saving GM and Chrysler and a million jobs? How about giving the order for our Navy Seals to take out 4 Somalian pirates holding an American hostage? How about getting a health care bill finally passed that goes all the way back to FDR.? How about steering us out of a recession caused by Bush and his cronies? How about bringing America back to the point of being respected again? How about getting us out of Iraq? How about starting to withdraw our troops from Afghanistan? Give me a half hour and I'll come up with many more---but it's a hot Friday night and a cold beer beckons.

Bickford Wiles's picture

Hidden rewards

Well, Mr.Pelletier, It seems you are also blinded by the light.Have another beer! Maybe ,but I am sure,not, that you can retrace history back to FDR,your other Liberal socialite,and see where the trouble with America began. Government meddling in the private lives and freedoms of American citizens whom can manage just fine without government interference.Isn't the US Postal service,Freddie-Mae and Freddie-Mac and the Soctal Security Administration just something to be singing about.By the way your fearless hero didn't conquer Bin Laden,the U.S. Navy Seals Did You can erase that "spiked ball" from the score card.The rest of hif flops don't need comment.

AL PELLETIER's picture

Good god man

Read your post tomorrow . I just cracked my first beer. Looks like you've been in the sauce since this morning. "Maybe, but I am sure,not," DAH!

Bickford Wiles's picture

Saucy Conversation

I didn't think you were capable of all that non-sense ay yourself.LOL

Jason Theriault's picture

Bin Ladin = Dead

Bin Ladin = Dead

Bickford Wiles's picture

Bin laden Slain By Obama

Yes, of course,we have all heard from the Great Conquistidor! Boy, I sure am glad he got him before they got him. lol

MARK GRAVE's picture

Jason is in love with big

Jason is in love with big government. The government is growing, so that is good for Jason.

Jason does not believe in state’s rights or individualism. He is a greeny and big government is the only tool for forcing his will on others. What he fails to realize is the majority of people financing this big debacle will eventually rise up and starve the beast (i.e. government).

We are starting to see change. How can we tell? The government has to resort to threats, such as threating to withhold state funding if the state fails to comply with the master’s demands.

This is exactly what I expect the Obama administration will do to sway Maine.

Jason Theriault's picture

Wrong

I'm not in love with Big Government. But it is a necessarily evil.

I think we have to spend within our means, and I want major budget cuts. Where we disagree is with what to cut.

Do I like the ACA? Not really. Part of me wanted SCOTUS to toss it because the system in place now is not sound. The way we handle health care is just plain stupid, and the rest of the world has already figured that out, hence every other industrialized nation having a single payer system. I wanted it to get tossed so that the system could be allowed to implode. Because, as it is, there is too much money and influence tied up in insurance on Capitol hill.

MARK GRAVE's picture

Small government is a

Small government is a subjective concept, and I would say we are not on the same page in terms of what small government means.

If I were to define small government quantitatively, I would say small government means it spends no more than 10% of GDP with a revolving debt of no more than 30% of GDP.

Better living and more freedoms through small government.

Jason Theriault's picture

Hope you don't like Medicare

10% of GDP is DoD+Social Security, and nothing else.

So, you want to cut everything else(including Medicare)?

How about this, I will agree to your %s, only if we chose a industrialized nation at random, and use whatever % of their budget goes toward defense as the baseline for DoD.
The US is at 4.7%. World average is 2.6%

2.6% would be a cut of over 300 billion.

MARK GRAVE's picture

Jason, You’re measuring my

Jason,

You’re measuring my proposal against the current rate of government spending. Ostensibly, spending would have to reprioritize under the new spending cap. I could be convinced to support as much spending as 15% GDP, but no more.

Moreover, I would like to see this limit be written into the constitution. Of course, there would be an exception in the case “congress” declares war. Note I said congress, not to be confused with how both Bush and Obamma have been spending on police actions (or whatever you want to call it).

Better living through a constrained (10% GDP) Government.

Bickford Wiles's picture

Need for Big Government

It appears the liberals who like big government truly have a reason to dislike Governor LePage.He has reduced excess waste at DHHS by reducing the size of this monster.Pingree beleives we need to replace what the governor has done with the same old glut as before.Icreaseing the now swollen and corruted system is a liberal move to look like they have a heart.This is a good way to get re-elected and a bad way to improve the state coffer.Capital hill is rich from pharmeceuticals collution.It is high time the bureacrats clean up their act and tend to the health of this country.

MARK GRAVE's picture

It is pretty amazing when you

It is pretty amazing when you look at the wealth of some of these long-time congress men or women from the time they take office until the time they retire. How can one build that wealth on their salary unless they make use of inside information in the stock market?

This behavior is something that you and I would go to jail over which is insider trading.

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