During a closed-door session with supporters of a conservative foundation, U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin said the assertion that the House health care bill he voted for would cut Medicaid “is a flat-out untruthful statement.”

Whether he’s right or not is likely to be a key point in his re-election battle during the next 14 months — and an issue that’s not likely to be resolved by partisan sparring.

Democrats are already slamming Poliquin regularly for his May vote in favor of replacing President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act with a GOP version that the Congressional Budget Office said would leave 23 million more people without insurance by 2026.

The CBO also said the Republican bill Poliquin backed would reduce Medicaid spending during the next decade by $834 million.

But Republicans argue they are proposing cuts to planned increases in Medicaid spending, which is a far cry from actually making cuts in the allocation for the program that provides coverage millions of the nation’s poor.

“We don’t see them as cuts,” said Kellyanne Conway, a key advisor to President Donald Trump, during a spring interview on ABC.


In a prepared statement in June, Poliquin said it is time “to be honest about how Medicaid is an open-ended program with no budget, which continues to grow beyond the taxpayers’ ability to pay for the health care benefits. It’s simply not sustainable.”

There is a disagreement on that point, but there is no doubt the program has been growing and, without change, will continue to cost more every year, particularly given that it’s become the last resort for covering nursing home costs for impoverished senior citizens.

Poliquin has detailed many health care issues he would like to see Congress address, and considered the House vote a necessary step toward resolving them.

He told Maine Heritage Policy Center supporters — which was detailed in a secret recording of the talk provided to the Maine People’s Alliance — that with the House passage, it became the Senate’s turn to act.

But it refused to support any alternative offered, stalled in the end by the opposition of three senators, including Maine’s Susan Collins, a Republican.

“How can anybody vote not even to start debate on an issue this important?” Poliquin asked.


“We’ve got to fix this and we did in the House,” he said. “The Senate couldn’t get it done. That is shameful.”

“We have done what we needed to do in the House. Pray for our senators. Reach out to whoever you think you should,” Poliquin said.

Poliquin appeared to take aim at Collins in particular.

“Now, for some people to say ‘Well the reason I can’t support this, Bruce, is because it cuts Medicaid,’ that is a flat-out untruthful statement,” the congressman alleged.

Collins denounced the House bill last month.

Voting against proceeding on the measure, she said that “for many Americans, this bill could actually make the situation worse. Among other things, the bill would make sweeping changes to the Medicaid program – an important safety net that for more than 50 years has helped poor and disabled individuals, including children and low-income seniors, receive health care.”


She didn’t call it a cut, but she made it clear that she didn’t agree with efforts to reduce its growth so sharply.

Experts said that the bill backed by Poliquin would have caused Medicaid enrollment to go down by 16 percent among those under the age of 65, people the CBO report made clear would likely wind up without any insurance.

One of the ironies of the clash over what House Republicans eyed for Medicaid is that both sides have flipped their stance over what constitutes a cut.

Back in 2012, GOP advertisements and candidates blasted Democrats for allegedly cutting $716 billion from Medicare. What Obama had done was to slice that much from future growth in the program by reducing payments to providers and insurers.

Democrats, naturally, denied there was a cut to the program.

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