Gov. Paul LePage pleads for repeal of Obamacare

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Gov. Paul LePage speaks about health care policy outside the White House on Wednesday, June 28, 2017.

AUGUSTA — Gov. Paul LePage is pushing hard to convince Congress this week to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

“We have one last shot, this week, to get the votes in the United States Senate to save the system from collapse or takeover,” LePage said in a note emailed Sunday to supporters of the Maine Republican Party. “I am absolutely convinced that this is our last chance.”

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The Senate, which shot down an attempt to overhaul President Barack Obama’s health care program in June, has until Sept. 30 to adopt a new plan through a reconciliation process that requires only a 50-vote majority to pass rather than the 60-vote margin often needed.

Supporters of a proposal by U.S. Sens. Bill Cassidy, R-La., and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., are trying to patch together a majority to push through their measure this week. Their plan would roll back federal Medicaid funding, giving states more flexibility but less money.

The Maine Hospital Association said Monday the bill would cut federal health care coverage in Maine by more than $1 billion over the next decade.

Cassidy told reporters Friday he has 49 votes, which means he needs only one more since Vice President Mike Pence would break any tie.

So far, only one of the 52 Republicans has said he will oppose the proposal, Rand Paul of Kentucky. Three others — Maine’s Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and John McCain of Arizona — refused to endorse GOP bills in June that would have change the ACA substantially.

LePage urged Maine Republicans to bombard lawmakers with phone calls this week to urge them to take action.

Collins, who is mostly hearing from Mainers opposed to the bill, sounds skeptical of it.

Spokeswoman Annie Clark said the senator “has a number of concerns with the Graham-Cassidy Proposal, including the cuts to the Medicaid program and the impact to the requirement that insurers provide coverage to people with preexisting conditions.”

Collins is waiting to see the Congressional Budget Office analysis of the measure.

“No matter what else you have going on, we have to save the American health care system,” the governor said in his email.

He said he has “been in close contact with many people working on this issue in Washington, D.C., including the White House” and believes “we are very close to having the votes to finally end the national nightmare of Obamacare,” a commonly used informal name for the ACA.

“I don’t need to tell you that premiums are skyrocketing yet again, or that deductibles are about to jump again. Everyone who pays for their insurance knows what is happening,” LePage said.

The governor pointed out that many Democratic senators are rallying behind a call by U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., to create a single-payer system instead.

“Democrats are about to try and use Obamacare’s failures to have the federal government completely take over the system – if we don’t do something, that could happen,” the governor said.

LePage said he is confident that both of Maine’s senators, Collins and independent Angus King, “understand that the system is failing. There is no way anyone in elected office could avoid hearing from the thousands of people who are suffering.”

Pleading with allies to call the senators, LePage said, “I need you. America needs you. Excuses and delays won’t cut it.

“It is time for the Republican Party to come together to keep our promises, and it is time for Washington to lift this terrible burden from the hardworking American people,” he said. “Let’s make these calls together, and let’s save the American health care system.”

scollins@sunjournal.com

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