Gov. Paul LePage tried to play dealmaker on the Republican Party’s latest health care reform efforts during his latest trip to Washington, D.C.
On Tuesday, he appeared on Fox News to amplify concerns about protections for people with pre-existing conditions that threaten to sink the latest attempt to replace Obamacare within the Republican caucus.
LePage met with key lawmakers on Monday and Tuesday in the conservative House Freedom Caucus: Rep. Mark Meadows, R-North Carolina, the chairman, and Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, who founded the group.
The Freedom Caucus was largely responsible for sinking Republicans’ unsuccessful March bid to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. They’re now on board after an amendment from Rep. Tom MacArthur, R-New Jersey, has replaced many elements of that earlier bill.
Maine has played a key role. The bill includes a piece of state Republicans’ 2011 health care reform law that established high-risk pools, where people with pre-existing conditions were identified by insurers to go into a pool where the state and insurers helped pay for premiums. Maine’s risk pools are “invisible,” meaning people in the pools don’t know they’re in it.
However, protections for people with pre-existing conditions are where the conflict is on the reform bill. The Affordable Care Act requires insurers to cover people with pre-existing conditions and makes it so they can’t charge more.
The MacArthur amendment is written in a way that looks to maintain protections for people with pre-existing conditions, but health experts told Politifact that other provisions would allow insurers to raise rates in a way that would make insurance unaffordable.
After initially opposing Republicans’ health care package in March, LePage supported the deal after lobbying for changes to Medicaid and attacked other Republicans for bucking President Donald Trump on the bill.
In an interview with Fox News on Tuesday, LePage said a Republican health care deal is “so, so close.” However, he criticized “this idea that pre-existing conditions should be used to set rates.”
“I think that needs to go away,” he said. “That goes away, this bill becomes a very good bill. Then, it would mirror Maine and I think America could move forward.”
This item was originally published in Daily Brief, a newsletter distributed Monday through Friday to inform dialogue about Maine politics and government. To read more, click here.