AUGUSTA, Maine — Gov. Paul LePage said Tuesday he will hold off on any decisions on state policy under the Affordable Care Act until after the November election and until President Barack Obama clarifies how provisions of the act will be implemented following the recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling that upheld the legality of the law.
“After November everyone is going to gear up for the January sessions and the states will be dealing with the issues in January and so will the federal government,” LePage said. “The fact of the matter is they are already giving extensions for things that were supposed to happen in 2014.”
LePage said an example is the exchanges where the uninsured will be able to buy health insurance with some getting subsidies to help pay the health insurance premiums. He said Maine should let the federal government create the exchange for the state because it would be less expensive, but clarified he has not made a decision on the issue.
“We have got to wait to get the answers on how everything is going to work, who is responsible for what and when they are responsible,” LePage said.
The governor was on a conference call Tuesday morning with several other GOP governors to discuss the Affordable Care Act and what it will mean to the states. He said they decided to write Obama with a list of questions about the court ruling and what it means to implementing the act by the states.
“The problem with the Supreme Court decision is they didn’t give us the answers,” LePage said. “They just said it’s either constitutional or not constitutional. But they don’t tell the president or us, the states, what we have to do.”
He said although he will not decide what to recommend to the Legislature until after there are answers on implementation questions and until after the election, he said he does not see how Maine can expand Medicaid as required by the law.
“We are already above most of their minimums,” LePage said. “We have bills we have to pay. We owe the hospitals $500 million; we can’t be expanding when we can’t pay our bills.”
The governor said the election will determine the future of the law and if Mitt Romney wins, the law will be repealed. He said if Republicans control Congress it will be repealed and he believes there is a possibility it will be repealed if Democrats control Congress.
Repeal of the law likely would be held up in the U.S. Senate even if the GOP takes a majority of the chamber because Republicans would need 60 votes to overcome a filibuster.
Democratic Rep. Mike Michaud is confident a repeal measure would fail to overcome a filibuster by Democrats.
“The bottom line is that the law is not going to be repealed,” he said.
Sen. Susan Collins, a Republican, said there may be a way around the filibuster through a parliamentary maneuver she was told about just before the recess for the Fourth of July holiday. She said there is an argument that it will only take a simple majority for repeal, but she said that is not certain.
“Stay tuned,” she said.
LePage said during the conference call that the parliamentary issue came up and some governors have been advised it will take only a simple majority to repeal the law.
Michaud, who voted for the Affordable Care Act, said Maine should take advantage of the law’s provisions that would provide additional federal funds for health care. For example, the expansion of Medicaid coverage in the law is fully paid for by the federal government for the first three years, and it will pay for 90 percent of the additional cost after that.
“People are still hurting and I think it is important for the state to take advantage of any program that the federal government may have that does not cost the state additional funding,” he said. “To do otherwise, I think, would not be beneficial to those that desperately need those programs.”