Poliquin backs bill to scrap Obamacare’s individual mandate

Bruce Poliquin. BDN file photo by Troy R. Bennett.

Bruce Poliquin. BDN file photo by Troy R. Bennett.

Ever since voting last week against a bill that would have repealed Obamacare in its entirety, Maine’s junior U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin, a Republican, has worked double-time to reassure conservatives that he does indeed oppose the law.

On Tuesday, Poliquin announced his co-sponsorship of HR 143, a bill that would eliminate the individual mandate portion of the Affordable Care Act.If it were successful — and the odds are long — it would essentially gut a central pillar of the ACA.

“I’m proud to help repeal ObamaCare’s penalizing individual mandate. Our hard-working families should not be fined for opting not to purchase a health insurance plan that does not fit their budget or health care needs,” Poliquin wrote in a prepared statement.

Without the individual mandate, which requires most Americans to obtain health insurance or pay a fine, the entire premise of the ACA falls apart. Increased enrollment, obtained via the mandate, pays for other provisions of the law that require insurance companies to cover more people and procedures than they used to. That includes popular coverage provisions, such as guaranteed coverage for people with preexisting conditions.

In voting last week with just two other House Republicans against the complete repeal bill, Poliquin — who campaigned against the ACA — made an argument that couldn’t be easily distilled into a pro- or anti-Obamacare soundbite.That’s a cardinal sin in this nuance-averse era of Congressional theater.

Yes, the Affordable Care Act is a travesty, Poliquin said, but it would be wrong to pull the rug out from the more than 60,000 Mainers who have already signed up for health insurance under the provisions of the law unless we have an alternative plan for them.

Poliquin’s vote spurred a great gnashing of teeth among many Conservatives, who saw the bill as a litmus test. Vote yes if you’re with us. Vote no if you’re against us. Ever since, he’s been trying to reassure them that he hates Obamacare as much as they do.

That includes recording a video outlining his opposition, hailing a proposed “free-market” alternative to the ACA and, now, backing the elimination of the individual mandate.

It’s worth noting that nearly all these votes are pure political theater. Barring a dramatic and unforeseen upset, there’s no chance that any efforts to repeal, defund or seriously alter any core provision of the Affordable Care Act will ever pass into law while Obama is still in office. The president has vowed vetoes of every one, and the GOP simply doesn’t have the votes to overcome his veto.

Mario Moretto

About Mario Moretto

Mario Moretto has been a Maine journalist, in print and online publications, since 2009. He joined the Bangor Daily News in 2012, first as a general assignment reporter in his native Hancock County and, now, in the State House. Mario left the BDN in 2015.