LEWISTON — U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud, a Maine Democrat, has yet to reveal how he will vote on the pending health care reform legislation, despite requests for support coming from the White House, leaders of the U.S. House of Representatives and Michaud's constituents.
A House vote could take place this weekend on the nearly 2,000-page bill, which is expected to cost about $1.2 trillion over the next 10 years and insure about 36 million more Americans, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. It also is estimated to cut the deficit by more than $30 billion over the next decade.
According to a spokesman, Michaud is concerned about how one of the mechanisms being used to fund the legislation, cuts to the Medicare reimbursement rates to rural providers, will affect health care delivery in Maine.
"At this point, he's continuing to work with leaders and has had discussions with the White House and even with Sen. (Olympia) Snowe today about the concerns that he has with the cuts to Medicare that are contained in the House bill, how the House bill deals with the expansion under Medicaid and how it treats Maine," said Ed Gilman, Michaud's spokesman.
Michaud is not concerned about the bill's inclusion of a "public option," which would allow a government-run insurance plan to compete with private plans. For months, Michaud has consistently expressed his support for such a system, which he sees as an important way to hold down costs.
"There's a lot in this bill that he does support, all of the reforms to the insurance industry practices that have just plagued too many people, whether that's dropping people when they become sick or denying people because they have a pre-existing conditions," Gilman said.
Several dozen supporters of the bill gathered in front of the Michaud's Lewiston office Friday afternoon, encouraging him to support the legislation.
Greg Howard of the Change That Works campaign in Maine said Michaud should vote to support the bill because the people of Maine need it.
"(Michaud) has been a steadfast, strong supporter of many of the issues we hold dear," said Howard, whose group is backed by the Service Employees International Union. "We've got to keep the momentum going on reform."
U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree, also a Maine Democrat, has already expressed her support for the bill.
Asked whether Michaud would vote against the health care reform bill if his concerns were not addressed, Gilman said he didn't know.
"His decision will be based on his own judgment and analysis from experts, whether it's the Congressional Budget Office or folks in Maine, on how this bill treats people he represents," Gilman said.