LePage: ‘You can’t go from Obamacare to RINOcare’

Republican Gov. Paul LePage on Thursday amplified his criticism of the health care reform effort being mulled in Congress, saying it would be devastating to Maine’s budget because the state has the oldest per-capita population in the country.

LePage said during a radio interview on WGAN that he was leaving for Capitol Hill at 10 a.m. for meetings today and Friday with lawmakers, White House staff and Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price.

“The big issue right now that I’m trying to work on is this repeal, replace and reform,” said LePage. “You can’t go from Obamacare to RINOcare.”

RINO, which you probably understand, is an acronym for “Republican in Name Only.”

As he has said before, LePage argued that Congress and President Donald Trump should immediately eliminate the option for states to expand health coverage through Medicaid, which the current Republican plan would preserve until 2020.

“It’s almost like a bait and switch,” he said. “I’m saying ‘wait a minute, let’s fix it now.’ … You can’t just put it on the taxpayers and that’s what I’m objecting to.”

LePage said putting a per-capita cap on health coverage would be financially damaging to Maine because of our high number of senior citizens.  

“We are disproportionate to the rest of the country because of our demographics,” said LePage. “It’s going to be an absolute disaster.”

LePage continued to tout a private-market approach to providing health insurance. He told the radio hosts on Thursday that thousands of Mainers gave up employer-sponsored health insurance because they could get free coverage through Medicaid. The radio hosts did not ask him for a source to support that claim.

Maine’s Republican governor said that states would face crippling new costs if a final version of the House Republicans’ plan keeps expanded Medicaid eligibility guidelines in place through 2020, suggesting that it would trigger a return to massive state health care spending shortfalls that his administration had to deal with in 2009 and 2010.

LePage, who has taken a more assertive role as a conservative voice in the national debate over the Affordable Care Act, said he is not confident Congress will do the right thing.

“I look at Congress like I look at the Legislature,” he said. “Backbone is not their strongest asset.” — Christopher Cousins

When Maine lawmakers visit marijuana growers, the public can’t go

A set of informational tours scheduled on Friday for the new legislative committee working to implement Maine’s recreational marijuana law could rub up against open meeting law this week because the public can’t go where they’re going.

The junket isn’t on the Legislature’s schedule, but Sen. Roger Katz, R-Augusta, the co-chairman of the the Legislature’s Marijuana Legalization Implementation Committee, said Wednesday that members will tour three medical marijuana facilities: Remedy Compassion Center, a dispensary in Auburn that grows on-site, an Auburn cultivation facility for the dispensary chain Wellness Connection of Maine and a caregiver’s operation in Litchfield.

The Bangor Daily News found out about it earlier this week and called a legislative analyst in hope of tagging along on the tours. She told us that we couldn’t go and neither could the committee’s staff.

When it comes to public meetings, that’s almost never true. This time, the setting makes it true.

Under Maine law, employees and patients of medical marijuana facilities are among the only people allowed into cultivation areas. (All kinds of Maine journalists have unwittingly violated that law for reporting purposes, including me.)

But in that law, there are certain exemptions, including for “an elected official” invited for educational purposes. However, a comprehensive interpretation of Maine open meeting law says public bodies should hold even informational sessions in public, regardless of whether they’ll take official action or not. The committee won’t on this tour.

Katz said he only learned about that law barring most — but not legislators — from marijuana grows recently and disagreed, saying “I don’t understand why we are singled out as being smarter and more trustworthy than everybody else.”

However, he said “the alternative is not to go and we won’t be as educated about what we’re doing if we don’t go.” Katz said the committee won’t discuss policy on the trip, especially now knowing that the public and press are excluded. — Michael Shepherd

Quick hits

  • The U.S. House passed a defense bill with funding for another Bath Iron Works ship in it. According to Republican U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, the $578 billion 2017 defense spending bill includes funding for a total of three Arleigh Burke-class destroyers that are part of a multi-year procurement of 10 ships. The U.S. Navy currently has 272 deployable battle force ships, which is short of the Navy’s goal of having 308 by 2021. Several more votes on the spending plan will be required before the Maine shipyard sees the money. — Christopher Cousins
  • Mary Mayhew was in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday to lobby against Medicaid expansion. According to Roll Call, the Maine Department of Health and Human Services commissioner was invited to Capitol Hill by Republican U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin of Maine’s 2nd District. She advocated for an earlier enrollment freeze in the Medicaid expansion program, which as written wouldn’t happen until 2020, and told the Republican Study Committee about how Maine has reduced its Medicaid program. LePage will follow Mayhew to Washington. — Christopher Cousins
  • A Republican operative who was a key cog in the LePage administration’s welfare department has joined a consulting group. Sam Adolphsen, who worked for DHHS since 2013, said Wednesday that he has taken a job as vice president with Rockwood Solutions, a New Hampshire consulting group founded by Trevor Bragdon, a Republican operative and Maine native. In a text message, Adolphsen said he’ll be working on “welfare reform issues in states and D.C.” He was most recently DHHS’ chief operating officer and his cousin, Nick, is DHHS’ director of government relations and policy. Adolphsen’s new firm has done consulting work for the Maine Republican Party and Maine lobbying and law firm Preti Flaherty. — Michael Shepherd

Reading list

Is Paul Ryan the reason Americans are having less sex?

According to a recent article in the Guardian, he is, and Americans are getting it on less often than they used to. “The drop spans race, age, region, gender, education level and work status,” it says.

Oh no!

An actual study blames the problem on Americans working longer hours and the growing number of entertainment alternatives, such as Facebook and Netflix. (NOTE: You don’t have to watch all 192 episodes of The Office this week.)

The Guardian lists a few other reasons, including that American men have penis envy when they see the eggplant emoji, which I can’t show you here. The Daily Brief is a family friendly blog.

The newspaper also guesses that too many of us are staring at Twitter to see President Donald Trump’s latest tweet, and this: “Republican couples are fearful of provoking the ire of Paul Ryan by engaging in an activity that might add to the country’s population while he is working so hard to drastically reduce it.”

Sheesh, people. If that’s your concern, use a condom. Here’s your soundtrack.Christopher Cousins

With tips, pitches, questions or feedback, email us at politics@bangordailynews.com. If you’re reading The Daily Brief on the BDN’s website or were forwarded it, click here to get Maine’s only newsletter on state politics and policy delivered via email every weekday morning.

Michael Shepherd

About Michael Shepherd

Michael Shepherd joined the Bangor Daily News in 2015 after covering state, federal and local issues for the Kennebec Journal for three years. He's a Hallowell native who now lives in Gardiner. He graduated from the University of Maine in 2012 and is a graduate student at the University of Southern Maine's Muskie School of Public Service.