Data undercut LePage claim that many dump private insurance for Medicaid

Good morning from Augusta, where we’re still unpacking Gov. Paul LePage’s wide-ranging radio interview yesterday, which included a tenuous claim on health care that we’ve never heard before.

When he was talking about his meeting last week with U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price on health care reform, he called for “a law against people who have commercial-supplied insurance from their employers to drop it so they can get it free” through Medicaid.

“That’s not what Medicaid is about,” LePage said. “Medicaid is about helping the elderly, the disabled, the children that cannot get insurance and when you can, it should not be a green light to just cancel it and that’s where my concern is.”

He cited this as a problem in Maine’s 2002 expansion of Medicaid, which his administration has cited as a reason that the state should reject expansion under the Affordable Care Act. In turn, LePage has vetoed expansion six times.

We don’t have Maine figures on the past expansion and LePage’s office didn’t respond to a request for more information on Tuesday afternoon. But data show that people dropping private insurance to join the Medicaid rolls doesn’t appear to have been a massive national issue under the Affordable Care Act’s expansion.

Kaiser Family Foundation report said 79 percent of workers in the northeastern U.S. were eligible for coverage through an employer in 2016, with 78 percent of them taking it. That leaves 22 percent who didn’t. However, there could be many other reasons that don’t involve Medicaid, including being covered under a spouse’s plan or getting coverage through the Affordable Care Act’s exchanges.

Also, a 2015 study by the RAND Corporation  showed that 1.2 million Americans with either employer-sponsored or nongroup insurance in 2013 were on the Medicaid rolls as of 2015. That group constituted less than 6 percent of the 21 million American adults on Medicaid between the ages of 18 and 64, but just 0.6 percent of the 198.5 million adults between those ages. Nearly 6.5 million were previously uninsured.

Matt Broaddus, an analyst with the liberal Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, said it’s likely that many of these people didn’t simply give up insurance, but had their statuses change in a way that made them ineligible for employer-sponsored insurance.

So, while there may be anecdotal evidence to indicate that some people forgo private insurance for Medicaid, the national data showing it’s been rare could explain why LePage’s claim hasn’t previously been a part of the national dialogue on health care reform. — Michael Shepherd

Quick hits

  • Bill Cohen questions Trump’s ‘bromance’ with Vladimir Putin. Bill Cohen, the former Republican U.S. representative and senator from Maine who went on to become U.S. secretary of defense, had some hard questions for the president regarding his income and holdings during a recent interview with Katie Couric, Cohen said Trump must tell the world what he owns, what he owes and to whom he owes. If Trump doesn’t answer those questions, said Cohen, “what is the basis for this new bromance that seems to have cooled in recent weeks.” Cohen suggested that Trump is fostering a relationship with Russia despite the country’s recent history of atrocities against its people. — Christopher Cousins
  • Maine became a state 197 years ago today on a date known for political treachery. We became independent from Massachusetts on March 15, 1820, the date that was set in the Maine Constitution finalized in October 1819. But the day of Maine’s independence, known as the Ides of March, is more famous for being the day Julius Caesar was assassinated. Here’s your soundtrack, because listening to Orson Welles do Shakespeare is a great way to start the morning. — Michael Shepherd, h/t Robert Long
  • A Republican lawmaker plans to ask Maine Attorney General Janet Mills about a public access issue illuminated in the Daily Brief. Last week, we told you about how a set of tours of medical marijuana facilities by the legislative committee working to implement Maine’s recreational marijuana law could rub up against open meeting law because of another law barring members of the public — but not legislators — from going into medical marijuana facilities. Rep. Stacey Guerin, R-Glenburn, said on the House floor on Tuesday that she intends to ask Mills “to look into this.” That move coincides with Sunshine Week, an annual celebration of the public’s right to know. — Michael Shepherd
  • LePage postpones town hall meeting planned for Gorham tonight. The governor announced this morning that a town hall forum scheduled for 6 p.m. today in Gorham will be rescheduled. — Christopher Cousins
  • Franco-American Day at the State House has been postponed. Francophones from all over Maine were scheduled to converge on the State House today but because of the storm, it has been postponed. We’ll keep you posted about the snow date. — Christopher Cousins

Today in A-town

  • The House and Senate crammed in long-ish sessions on Tuesday with the snow beginning to fall but are on recess until tomorrow. The legislative committee schedule is likely to be jumbled today because of yesterday’s postponements and possibly, lawmakers and advocates having a hard time reaching the capitol. 
  • The Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee has two hot issues on its docket for this afternoon: a proposal to create a jail-based addiction treatment program and a bill to settle, finally, (maybe) whether the state, the counties or both should be responsible for funding county jails. That issue has been the source of controversy for years.
  • There are a number of work sessions planned for this afternoon. That means committees could be forwarding recommendations to the Legislature. The Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee is contemplating a bill regarding expenditures by political action committees; the Marine Resources Committee will consider a number of bills related to harvesting marine organisms; the Environment and Natural Resources Committee will consider anti-pollution bills and a bid to exempt bottles bigger than 46 ounces from bottle redemption laws; and the Education Committee will consider a handful of bills related to teacher training and certification and discipline in public schools. — Christopher Cousins

Reading list

Best of Maine’s Craigslist

  • This person is no fan of snow reporting. Someone saw a WMTW truck in Windham during yesterday’s storm, saying they couldn’t wait to turn on the news for a reporter to advise them to buy bottled water. “Question for them, has anybody ever died from thirst in a snowstorm?” they ask. However, the person picked up “an emergency twelve pack… just in case!”
  • They just want to be free. Somebody is looking for people in Maine “who are interested in enjoying the freeing experience of being nude with others.”
  • Which kind of showerer does Trump prefer? A “after work showerer” who supports President Donald Trump likes watching Trump “stick it to those before work showerers.” I shower after I write the Daily Brief but before the rest of the work day. What am I? Here’s your soundtrack. — Michael Shepherd
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.