Redefining awkward: LePage preaching about health care

I did a double-take when I heard Governor LePage flew to Washington, DC, to meet with Vice President Pence to discuss the latest attempt to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. This dynamic duo of extreme conservatism are attempting some sort of power play to pressure Senator Collins to support the Graham-Cassidy Act. 

Talk about an awkward.

I mean, LePage was just trash talking Collins over the summer, speculating that her chances in a Republican gubernatorial primary race weren’t great. Pretty cold considering her support for LePage in 2014 — cold enough that the Pence/LePage bequest to Collins should’ve actually started with the phrase:

We know this request is awkward, but …

It gets more awkward when you consider that LePage isn’t backstabbing and pressuring any average fellow Republican and supporter. Collins has been a prize fighter at the center of the battle royal over health care in DC for several weeks now.

I highly doubt peer pressure from our governor is on her radar of factors to consider regarding national health care policy.

Further, it’s hard to imagine why LePage would consider himself an expert on health care.

For starters he’s the governor of a state that’s been seeing an average of one overdose death a day for a year and a half now. The current collective weight of this addiction epidemic and its generational aftermath cannot be underestimated. However, as the epidemic burgeoned, the LePage administration seemed primarily focused on cutting health care access by trimming MaineCare rolls. 

And as if previous cuts during an epidemic weren’t enough, our most recent legislative session opened with a LePage administration proposal to cut MaineCare access for working parents to 40 percent of poverty. Apparently in LePage’s world, it would be okay to force parents to choose between treating a deadly condition like addiction or providing for their children.

At 40 percent of poverty, it’d be hard to do both.

I know someone paying $390 a month for methadone treatment without insurance. That’s just the cost of the treatment itself — depending on the distance to the nearest clinic, transportation costs can jack that figure up considerably.

At 40 percent of poverty, a hypothetical single mom of two would’ve had to fork over at least two or three of her paychecks a month to maintain methadone treatment. Thankfully the proposal was ignored by the legislature, but that the LePage administration even put the idea out there speaks volumes.

The LePage administration’s handling of Maine’s overall health care infrastructure hasn’t been overly sound, either. Even though LePage likes to brag about paying back debts to hospitals early in his tenure, their opposition to things like cutting Mainecare access to 40 percent of poverty fall victim to the administration’s selective perception.

LePage’s trip to DC indicates the Maine Hospital Association’s concerns about the Graham-Cassidy health care proposal are meeting the same fate. Never mind that the association is worried about the survival of our rural hospitals.

Never mind that the association’s president said, in reference to Graham-Cassidy:

We’re talking about something that is almost impossible to overstate. We’re talking about, for sure, service closures and probably hospital closures if this would go through.  Steven Michaud, President, Maine Hospital Association 

Nevermind that the justifications for LePage’s support of Graham-Cassidy are being questioned from a variety of directions. Or that addiction experts fear the legislation would make the addiction epidemic worse.

I trust that Collins has her sights focused on indicators that matter, like the pending Congressional Budget Office scoring of this latest repeal and replace effort. LePage and his awkwardness don’t belong at that battle royal.


Endnote to follow-up on my last post:  Maine Calling on Maine Public did a thoughtful program on our addiction epidemic last week. The experts were insightful and the segment included signs of hope, like a community-driven organization in Aroostook County. The segment accurately depicted the grim realities at hand, as well.

An especially compelling call came from a young woman named Lindsay who recounted her fiancé’s battle with opiate addiction. She lost him in February. She described periods of sobriety, with the best and longest being when her fiancé was on Suboxone, but he eventually quit because of the cost.

Lindsay said they had two children to provide for, and his medication was too expensive given their household bills. Another travesty for yet another family in Maine.  Click here to listen to the program.  Lindsay’s call starts around 43:55.

Patricia Callahan

About Patricia Callahan

Trish is a writer who lives in Augusta. She has worked professionally in education and social services.