Michaud: No health care forum

Posted Aug. 19, 2009, at 9:48 p.m.

AUGUSTA, Maine — U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud is under pressure from a likely political opponent next year to hold a joint forum on health care before Congress returns next month.

Michaud’s office has declined the offer, saying the congressman has no interest in turning the health care debate in Maine into a “political football.” But a Michaud spokesman said the congressman will hold several health care panels in the coming weeks and will take phone calls on the issue next week.

“We are going to make sure that we get all perspectives,” spokesman John Graham said Wednesday.

“That is one of the points of these round-table panels, to make sure all views are heard.”

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Jason Levesque, an Auburn businessman who plans to seek the Republican nomination to run against Michaud, had sent a letter to Michaud inviting him to a joint town hall meeting on health care.

Levesque’s campaign has accused Michaud of being unclear publicly about his positions on the various health care reform proposals that have generated intense national debate. They also suggested that Michaud is avoiding public dialogue about health care in the wake of the sometimes rowdy town halls held by other members of Congress.

“Right now, what I am hearing is everybody is confused. They don’t know where Mike Michaud stands,” Levesque said Wednesday.

Michaud’s office said he has been talking with district residents about the issue and will continue that dialogue until Congress returns after Labor Day.

On key issues, Michaud has said he supports a public option as long as it is “affordable and properly structured to address the needs of rural states like Maine.”

Michaud said he wants any reform measure to be deficit-neutral and to lower the costs for families and businesses while increasing the quality of care. He also has said health care reform is too important an issue to rush through Congress without full public scrutiny.

The congressman will hold a telephone call-in program next Wednesday evening to discuss health care and is expected to appear on “The George Hale-Ric Tyler Show” on WVOM radio next Tuesday morning.

Graham said Michaud also is planning three round-table discussions, or panels, focusing on health care providers, small businesses and consumers.

While those panel discussions will be invitation-only, Graham said Michaud would make sure the critics of the health care reform proposals who have contacted his office are represented.

Asked why Michaud is not holding a town hall meeting, Graham said he did not believe the type of shouting matches seen recently “are the type of forum that is going to really help the congressman and really help Maine people understand the issue.”

Levesque said he believes a town hall meeting in Maine would be more civil.

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