Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Sara Gideon gets a tour of ReVision Energy in South Portland in this Aug. 7, 2020, file photo. Credit: Troy R. Bennett / BDN

Good morning from Augusta. There are 69 days until Election Day.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: “A lot of people that are really happy and love life have something they’re passionate about and have something that money can’t buy, and that for me is football,” Foxcroft Academy senior Logan Martin said of how football helps him manage depression and anxiety. “When I don’t have football I don’t have that thing I’m passionate about, that thing I love to do.” Here’s your soundtrack.

What we’re watching today

The Democratic U.S. candidate rolled out a health care plan that would be a major shift despite falling in the middle of her party. House Speaker Sara Gideon’s plan released Tuesday consisted mainly of ideas she has floated before in her race against U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, a Republican, including a Medicare-like public option similar to the one proposed by Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden.

It also includes changes that would affect health care in Maine, including designating more rural hospitals as critical access hospitals, which allows them to receive higher Medicare reimbursement rates, and supporting efforts to recruit doctors and nurses to rural areas. Now, 16 of Maine’s 36 hospitals have the critical access designation.

The public option, which has come to be viewed as a more moderate alternative to Medicare for All, would be targeted to the 20 million people in the individual insurance market, though it would be available to many more. These plans would have to carefully balance costs, however. Hospitals have long been reluctant about Democratic plans including the public option and Medicare for All, because Medicare typically pays less than private insurance. 

For example, private insurers and self-paying patients paid 47 percent of Maine hospital bills in 2017 but accounted for 39 percent of utilization, meaning they effectively subsidize public coverage. Gideon’s plan looks to address that with changes that would have the government pay more, but hospitals have not been convinced by other plans seeking to strike that balance.

Democrats would likely have to end the Senate filibuster to pass such a plan, which could be an issue in the Maine race. Gideon also said Tuesday that she is open to repealing the Senate filibuster if necessary to pass legislation on issues including health care. Such a repeal would almost certainly be needed to pass a major health care bill, because there is little chance Democrats will have 60 seats in the Senate in 2021.

Collins has defended the filibuster as it has eroded in a battle between the parties. Her campaign said Gideon’s health care plan would “devastate rural hospitals, increase taxes and harm patients” and that eliminating the filibuster would be “bad for Maine and bad for America.”

The Maine politics top 3

— “After years in the red, Millinocket hospital had to ramp up testing overnight after wedding,” Charles Eichacker, Bangor Daily News: “But just as the outbreak has shown that rural communities are not immune from the deadly pandemic despite Maine’s relatively low rates of COVID-19, the hospital’s response offers a reminder of how new outbreaks will affect all kinds of businesses and organizations that simply can’t operate at their normal levels when the disease is circulating.”

— “Lobsterman’s pro-Trump speech sets off political spat,” Patrick Whittle, Associated Press: “Swan’s Island lobster harvester Jason Joyce said he was skeptical of [President Donald] Trump in 2016 and didn’t support him then, but has since come around because of the president’s trade deals. He referenced last week’s announcement that the European Union agreed to drop its 8 percent tariff on U.S. lobsters for the next five years. The EU has also agreed to work to make the move permanent.”

His speech capped off weeks of appeals to the industry by the president. Trump’s efforts could be seen as an attempt to woo voters of the 2nd Congressional District, which he won in 2016. Courting the industry gives him the appearance of being aligned with working-class voters, although he has been virtually tied with Biden in recent polls in the 2nd District and way behind statewide.

— “Matt Dunlap to contest decision putting GOP ranked-choice voting challenge on Maine ballot,” Caitlin Andrews, BDN: “[Secretary of State Matt] Dunlap said a motion for reconsideration would be based on whether his department found that [Justice Thomas] McKeon miscalculated the amount of signatures restored, something his office was working on Tuesday night. An appeal would challenge McKeon’s reason for restoring those signatures.”

Today’s Daily Brief was written by Michael Shepherd, Caitlin Andrews and Jessica Piper. If you’re reading this on the BDN’s website or were forwarded it, email clumm@bangordailynews.com (we’re setting up a new subscriber page soon) to subscribe to it via email.

To reach us, do not reply directly to this newsletter, but contact the political team at mshepherd@bangordailynews.com, candrews@bangordailynews.com or jpiper@bangordailynews.com.

Michael Shepherd

Michael Shepherd

Michael Shepherd joined the Bangor Daily News in 2015 after three years as a reporter at the Kennebec Journal. A Hallowell native who now lives in Augusta, he graduated from the University of Maine in...