AUGUSTA, Maine — Gov. Paul LePage used his weekly radio address Saturday to further his long-running criticisms of the federal Affordable Care Act and explain why he is delaying its implementation in Maine.
Democrats, in their radio address last week, called the Supreme Court’s ruling in favor of the law “an incredible victory for Maine people,” and on Sunday, Rep. Emily Cain and Sen. Justin Alfond blasted LePage for what they called “intentionally offensive” comments.
LePage said the measure “raises taxes, cuts Medicare for the elderly, gets between patients and their doctors, costs trillions of taxpayer dollars and kills jobs.” LePage also took a shot at the individual mandate part of the law, which requires everyone to purchase health insurance or face penalties, by calling the Internal Revenue Service “the new Gestapo.” The Gestapo was Adolf Hitler’s notoriously brutal police unit during the Nazi rule of Germany.
LePage’s comments attracted the attention of national media over the weekend.
Cain, D-Orono, the House minority leader, called on lawmakers of both parties to condemn LePage’s use of the term “Gestapo.”
“This goes beyond political rhetoric,” Cain said in a written statement. “The experience of the Holocaust survivors and the veterans of World War II who witnessed the true terror of the Gestapo should not be trivialized for political shock. The governor must apologize.”
Alfond, D-Portland, assistant Democratic leader in the Senate, agreed.
“The governor’s comparison of the IRS to the Gestapo is shameful and ignorant,” said Alfond. “He’s gone too far and owes not just the people of Maine an apology for his degrading language but to the families who were the victims of the real Gestapo.”
Derrek L. Shulman, New England regional director of the national Anti-Defamation League, also called for LePage to retract his statement.
“Governor LePage’s use of language that evokes the Holocaust is hurtful and inappropriate,” said Shulman in a press release. “The governor should immediately apologize for his remarks and demonstrate an understanding of why they are offensive to all who value civil discourse. Comparisons to the Nazi police force have no place in modern politics or anywhere else.”
LePage said his administration would resist implementing the Affordable Care Act, particularly an expansion of Medicaid, because of debt Maine already has on the books — including $500 million due to the state’s hospitals — and what he characterized as a welfare program that is already too generous.
“Our welfare costs are among the highest in the nation as a result of some of the lowest eligibility requirements. Maine has increased its spending by more than a billion dollars during the last decade because of expanded welfare programs,” said LePage, according to a written version of his remarks. “We cannot afford our current programs, so to require Maine to expand coverage even more is fiscally irresponsible.”
LePage continued that the law, which was upheld last week by a U.S. Supreme Court decision, contains uncertainties, such as how new eligibility requirements will work and how federal matches to state investments and a national health care exchange will be funded.
In a Democratic radio address last week, Rep. Linda Sanborn, D-Gorham, who is a retired family physician, characterized the Affordable Care Act much differently.
“The Supreme Court’s decision to uphold the health reform law ensures hard-working, middle-class families will get the security they deserve and protects every American from the worst insurance company abuses,” said Sanborn, according to a written version of her speech. “Because Obamacare was upheld, if you are a family of four living in Maine earning $46,000 a year, you will soon be eligible for a $10,000 tax credit. And by August, thousands of Mainers will receive a rebate because their insurance company spent too much of their premium on administrative costs or CEO bonuses.”
Sanborn said the ruling is particularly important in Maine, where most people have seen increases in their health care premiums for years running, and where thousands of people lost health coverage last year as a result of cuts in the state budget.
“Obamacare has been the last parachute for these Maine people and small businesses that have had to pay more for less coverage,” said Sanborn. “No one should have to go bankrupt because of an illness or injury, or die of a treatable disease.”
LePage made reference to Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts’ characterization of the funding for the new health care law as a “tax.”
“This tax will add to the $500 billion in tax increases that are already in Obamacare,” said LePage. “Now that Congress can use the taxation power of the federal government to compel behavior or lack thereof, what’s next? More taxes if we don’t drive Toyota Priuses or if we eat too much junk food or maybe even pea soup? This decision has made America less free. We the people have been told there is no choice. You must buy health insurance or pay the new Gestapo — the IRS.”
LePage said the new law encourages citizens to rely on the federal government rather than their own independence.
“Success should not be measured by what we can get for free, but rather what we do and give back to society when we are independent and productive citizens,” he said. “Government-run health care is not what the American dream is about.”