Gov. Paul LePage doubled down on opposition to the proposed health care plan from Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives, sending a letter to House Speaker Paul Ryan to inform him that “early signs do not look encouraging” for his party’s congressional leaders.
The letter, which was forwarded to Trump and published on Tuesday afternoon by the news arm of the conservative Maine Heritage Policy Center, is indicative of a wider conservative split on the plan and puts the governor at odds with President Donald Trump on policy in the first high-profile way since the president took office.
The Republican governor first came out against the plan in a Tuesday radio interview, a day after House Republicans released their plan to replace the Affordable Care Act. It substitutes a system of tax credits and grants to states for federal subsidies and would wind down support for Medicaid expansion after 2020.
That’s not enough for LePage: In the letter, he calls for “a truly conservative, free-market replacement” that ends a previous Medicaid expansion for non-disabled adults — which the governor has vetoed in Maine five times — and gives Medicaid dollars to states in the form of block grants, which would give state officials greater latitude in determining eligibility and setting benefits.
He cites Trump’s election as a reason why, pointing to the maverick Republican’s 2016 victory as “a clear message to Washington, D.C., that [voters] are no longer willing to tolerate half-measures and politicians who don’t keep their promises” and noting that Republicans have long been campaigning on repeal of former President Barack Obama’s health care law.
“The American people, in turn, have given Republicans that opportunity,” LePage wrote. “However, the early signs are not encouraging.”
But the plan isn’t just House Republicans’ proposal at this point: Trump supported it on Tuesday, calling it “our wonderful new Healthcare Bill” on Twitter although he said it’s “now out for review and negotiation.” He’ll likely have to win over people of LePage’s ilk to shepherd the plan through Congress.