LePage won’t ‘lift a finger’ to set up Maine’s health insurance exchange

Paul LePage
Pat Wellenbach

In this Friday, April 27, 2012 photo, Gov. Paul LePage responds to questions at his office at the State House during an interview with the Associated Press. With control of the Legislature at stake, LePage is making selective appearances on behalf of Republican candidates, turning down more invitations for appearances than he's accepting. (AP Photo/Pat Wellenbach)

AUGUSTA — Maine will let the federal government take the reins on setting up a mandated online health insurance market, according to comments Gov. Paul LePage made Thursday to a national news outlet.

States must decide whether to set up the markets, called exchanges, or let the federal government step in to do it for them. The exchanges, online markets where consumers can buy coverage beginning next October, are a key component of President Barack Obama’s health reform law that aims to widen coverage to 30 million people.

LePage told Bloomberg news Thursday that he has no plans to set up an exchange in Maine.

“I’m not lifting a finger,” he said in an interview with Bloomberg at a Republican Governors Association meeting in Las Vegas. “We’re not going to get involved. We’re going to let Mr. Obama do a federal exchange. It’s his bill.”

LePage’s comments came a day before a Friday deadline for states to notify the federal government if they want to run the exchanges themselves.

Described as “Travelocity for health insurance,” the exchanges are websites where small businesses and individuals who aren’t covered through their employer can shop for coverage. Enrollment will begin next October for plans that will take effect Jan. 1, 2014.

Consumers can also use the exchanges to determine if they qualify for subsidies to help pay for their insurance or if they’re eligible for Medicaid, the state-federal health insurance program for the poor.

LePage and many other Republican governors have been highly critical of the health reform law, called the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. In April, LePage returned a $5.8 million federal grant that would have helped Maine pay for setting up an exchange.

Republican state lawmakers had already hit the brakes on planning for an exchange to wait for the Supreme Court to rule on the health care law’s constitutionality. The law was largely upheld in June.

The Republican Governors Association on Wednesday asked the Obama administration for more time to decide on the health exchange provision. In a letter to the president, Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal said governors don’t have enough information to assess the effect of the exchanges or to understand how the federal government will implement them.

Republican governors continue resisting implementing major provisions of the law — most of which will take effect in 2014 — in the wake of Mitt Romney’s defeat in the presidential election. Romney had vowed to repeal the health care overhaul. Critical of the law’s costs and regulatory burdens, some Republican lawmakers now hope to block federal funding for the exchanges.

LePage’s decision this week isn’t necessarily permanent in the long term. States can still choose to run their own exchanges after 2014 or pursue a third option, partnering with the federal government.

States that notify the feds by Friday that they want to run their own exchange have until Dec. 14, under an extension granted this week, to submit a blueprint to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. As of Thursday, 16 states were setting up exchanges themselves and 14, including Maine, had decided not to, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

Eight states remained undecided late Thursday. Four states planned to partner with the federal government on an exchange. HHS has given states until February to decide if they want to take that path in 2014.

States have been wrestling with how to operate the exchanges since the health reform law was signed in March 2010.

The exchanges will make shopping for health insurance much less complicated, according to Joe Ditre, executive director of Consumers for Affordable Health Care.

“The implications are that for the first time [consumers] will actually have access to a side-by-side, apples-to-apples comparison of each insurance company’s plan,” he said. “That’s huge.”

The federal subsidies will make health insurance more affordable and likely encourage additional insurers to sell competitively priced policies in Maine, he said. But LePage’s choice to forgo a state-run market robbed Maine of an opportunity to negotiate with insurers for the best policy prices through its exchange, Ditre said.

Joel Allumbaugh, a health policy expert at the conservative Maine Heritage Policy Center and president of the Maine Association of Health Underwriters, doesn’t buy that argument. Health insurance companies have little leverage over the prices that hospitals, doctors and other health care providers charge, which are the real drivers behind rising costs, he said.

It makes little difference for consumers whether the state or the federal government runs Maine’s exchange, since the subsidies are available regardless and federal requirements for the basic benefits insurers must include in their plans remain the same, Allumbaugh said.

“In the end, the law very much puts the feds in control,” he said. “They certainly pull the strings, so there’s a question about how much control do you really have at the state level to begin with.”

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Comments

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

Do you really want to trust

Do you really want to trust DHHS with the efficient and cost effective running of a Health Care Exchange? Really?
But on the flip side, who wants more federal intervention in the State of Maine?

Not lifting a finger ...

What has this governor done for this state anyway but make us the laughing stock of the country. He has gotten paid to sit on his arse and make stupid comments that has shown his ignorance since day one. I can't wait for the elections to get this clown out of office. I work with so many people that actually voted for this joker, and they all say the same. He has turned them off so much that alot have decided to change their party when it comes to voting for the next governor. Nice going Lepage...keep sitting there doing nothing, cause you helped elect our President...get over it ..Obama won...

Walter Burbank's picture

Lepage begins his farewell

Lepage begins his farewell tour.

FRANK EARLEY's picture

I don't think LePage is capable......

Having spent the past decade dealing with various aspects of the health care industry, I am convinced that by his inactivity, Lepage is doing us all a favor. I've had to transition from employer supplied health insurance, to private disability health insurance, to finally Social Security Disability Insurance (Medicare). Each step along the way required research and decision making to get the right package for my particular situation. There are so many different types of insurance, many different options to choose from. This process can be very daunting for someone who may not be educated in the insurance industry. Add to the mix, a person who may not be one hundred percent, due to a chronic or disabling illness, and you have the possibility of someone not getting the proper type of plan they may need. If I had an elderly relative, needing to stumble through this process, I would not want LePage in the drivers seat. I just don't feel he would put the effort and time, necessary to create a strong program, which would be user friendly. Its essential that when a person needs to acquire health insurance, that they receive the proper plan. The Federal Government will at least give us a useable exchange we can use until we can put a real governor in place in a couple of years. If there's one thing I've learned in ten years, is that this is to important to leave to someone who won't lift a finger......

Steve  Dosh's picture

LePage won’t ‘lift a finger’ to set up Maine’s health insurance

all, 12.11.16 09:45 am ish
. . When we worked in DC at the http://www.itcdc.com i used to see them bring VP Cheney to work every day from his residence in Georgetown . . in an ambulance . They would close down Constitution Ave. and stop all traffic at , well , about this time of day : 09:45 He was , to use the parlance , a " walking heart attack ack ack ." He suffered several in office . His doctor of choice was the Surgeon General and he'd be taken to Walter Reed hospital in Bethesda MD which featured best Federal medical care in the known universe
They work on soldiers , sailor and veterans
Turning to Maine and the extreme hubris present they'ya we sincerely hope and do pray that your Hon Gov. never has to call 9.11 . Glory be the first responders in ME , NJ , NY and the rest of these very United States
Alo'ha from Pahoa HI 96778 u s a /s Dr. Dosh & ohana , btw - we won . MW went 60 % Obama and we remain the 99 %
http://wearethe99percent.tumblr.com/

JOHN PAINTER's picture

As behavioral health

As behavioral health professional working in Maine for the past 20 years I also agree with the SJ that since Maine has a dubious history with setting up large systems across most of it’s human services i.e. MaineCare billing systems, compliance with the still unresolved AMHI Consent Decree, challenges understanding and administering efficiently and effectively PNMI services, etc it’s probably the right thing to do at this point.

From a conservative perspective it deeply bothers me that our Governor invited the Federal government to come and take over our state affairs. I think it’s embarrassing for the state under his leadership to have put itself in this position to cede power to the Federal government, for something as human as healthcare, a real conservative would not have allowed this even if disagreeing with the ACA - and stepped up to the plate and charted a Maine way. Instead the Governor saw fit to spend our time, and resources, not his, squabbling over murals, and squabbling, etc. This is the same type of uncompromising, I don't care what you think, lets exclude people from the process, behavior that drove me from the GOP several years back.

But this is the situation at hand, Maine has unfortunately over the past several years now systematically removed/downsized state personnel who had very valuable systems knowledge, leaving big gaps in people with necessary skills for setting this exchange up, or for that matter helping keep a state Medicaid system running and hopefully improving.

I’m at the point having observed so many issues in our state, where ironically, I now think it might actually be very helpful if Federal employees who understand large systems were actually in Maine, regularly communicating, directing, and helping people currently in the state system learn how to set up and manage the exchange and possibly help the state out of its ongoing and yet to be resolved problems with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid.

Jason Theriault's picture

I don't get it

I can understand LePage fighting the individual mandate, even though I don't agree with him. But isn't an open marketplace where competition is encouraged kinda the type of things the GOP likes?

I mean, this part of the law encourages private insurance to compete for our business and makes it easier for them to do so. I mean, you could even hand an "Open for Business" sign over the exchange. Declare it "Business friendly". I don't get the opposition.

Steve  Dosh's picture

Jason , et al., , A: He's

Jason , et al., , A: He's LA - Z and you pay for his health insurance . Get it ? Got it •
*< ;-Q~ <-- btw - there is a Santa Claus h t h /s Dr. Dosh HI http://www.pnhp.org/ows/index.php

Jonathan Albrecht's picture

Should I be surprised.

The exchanges and the affordable care act are good for working Mainers; therefore our Governor and his Republican allies are against it. But he picked the wrong analogy, instead of not lifting a finger he should have said he was holding his breath until he turned blue.
We really need to set up the election for governor so these minority candidates can't win. Require it to be a runoff among the top two candidates. The first vote will willow out the loonies and the embarassments.

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

Absolutely.Keep tweeking the

Absolutely.Keep tweeking the system until every democrat runs unopposed regardless of which election it is.

Steve  Dosh's picture

Jon , A: No • You shouldn't

Jon , A: No • You shouldn't . He's the tallest hog at the trough , too :D /s Steve , HI http://vhv-vetshelpingvets.com/ help the homeless • 

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

"He's the tallest hog at the

"He's the tallest hog at the trough".
Do you really think that sort of crap befits a person of your self-acclaimed stature? We could come up with a few similar obama analogies that would be just as tasteless but instead, we will choose the high road, in this instance.

FRANK EARLEY's picture

This is the second post for this apology

I don't know where the first one went, I meant Charlie Webster, not Charlie Summers. I guess the first name threw me off....

FRANK EARLEY's picture

SORRY>>>>>>

I meant Charlie Webster.......

FRANK EARLEY's picture

This is getting weird.....

I just posted a complaint about my original post disappearing, now the original post appeared and the complaint disappeared. Now If all goes according to plan, this post should magically appear in a few minutes. I still want the agree or disagree option back....

FRANK EARLEY's picture

Whatever you fixed that wasn't broke, change it back.....

I just spent fifteen minutes replying to this article. there was nothing offensive, and everything was factual. Upon finishing it, I hit the "Save" tab, and DA! DA!, it disappeared. I've noticed other subtle changes that have been made in the past week or so, no agree or disagree. How are we supposed to know if we struck a chord or not? I've verified my account so much, my fingers hurt from that alone. I've always said, if it ain't broke, don't fix it. Until you fix this I guess I'm not commenting anymore....

FRANK EARLEY's picture

Its sad, but I agree with LePage.....

Unfortunately we, as residents of this state, won't have some of the benefits of this new health care program. This, due to the stubborn, immature actions of the states highest elected official. I mean after all, who could possibly agree with such outlandish concepts as "Patient Protection, and Affordable health care". Next thing you know, we're going to expect the "Right to Vote freely", actually we are supposed to already have that, but Charlie Summers, is suffering some sort of hallucinatory, episode where he sees imaginary voters coming out of the woodwork, it's okay though, he's looking into it.
People, I'm not saying all Republicans suffer from"PESD" (Post Election Stupidity Disorder), but there are enough of them to concern us. Charlie Summers, is convinced that voters of color are popping up in rural Maine, and no one can identify them, or knows where they came from. LePage is going to hold his breath until he gets his way. In his own words, "I won't lift a finger to accomplish this", referring to the health care exchange. Correct me if I'm wrong, but weren't these people elected to do a job, and don't they receive pay checks, supplied by the taxpayers of the State? Lets put this into a scenario, that even LePage could understand. Suppose, when he was head of Mardens, he had this great idea. One of his top managers comes into his office and proclaims, "I don't like this, Therefore, I'm not lifting a finger to help implement it". In any private sector work place, anywhere in the free world, only one thing would happen, but not if your an elected official. Think about it, we need to look long and hard at how we are being treated when we go to the polls in a couple of years. Maybe we can get it right this time.....

Diana Currier's picture

.

so he is one of the pukes working AGAINST the President.... SAD Lepage in my book you are SAD. How about shut down the useless meth clinics!! seems THAT will help ALOT. Maybe more working maine can have mainecare if you did that. I personally don't care if they were addicted, I was addicted to something too ! Don't see a clinic for that. I know sounds like getting off subject, but for real it would all fit in nicely. I bet Mainecare pays a pretty penny for the folks at the clinics!! BS

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