Remarks by the Vice President and Maine Governor LePage on Graham-Cassidy
The Vice President’s Ceremonial Office
10:23 A.M. EDT
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, good morning, all. And it’s my privilege on behalf of President Trump to welcome Governor Paul LePage of Maine to the White House today.
The President and I are truly grateful for Governor LePage’s leadership in Maine. The motto of the state of Maine is “We lead.” And under Governor Paul LePage, that's been true in so many ways. But before Obamacare it was especially true when it came to healthcare. We're grateful for his leadership; we're especially grateful that Governor LePage and people across Maine are supporting the new Graham-Cassidy bill, which will not only repeal and replace Obamacare, but it will provide Maine with all new flexibility to return to the historic reforms that Maine was leading the nation with in their Public Law 90.
It is truly remarkable, but when you look at the Graham-Cassidy bill, what the Governor appreciates is this is not just a fresh start for America on healthcare reform, but it’s also a fresh start for Maine.
Maine was leading the way in individual market reform with its high-risk pools until Obamacare came along. And since then, their high-risk pool was shut down.
GOVERNOR LEPAGE: Absolutely.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: It was put on the shelf, and it was replaced with the failed exchanges of Obamacare that have seen premiums rise by 55 percent since 2013 for the people of Maine.
What Graham-Cassidy will do for Maine is it will repeal the individual mandate and the taxes and penalties associated with it. It will repeal the business mandate. But what’s got Governor LePage and governors across America so enthusiastic is that Graham-Cassidy will use block grants to give states like Maine the ability to craft solutions that will work for the unique situation in the state of Maine.
The truth is that what will work in Alaska won’t work as well in Maine, won’t work in Indiana, won’t necessarily work as well in Texas. The Graham-Cassidy bill the President and I are strongly supporting will give governors like Governor LePage the ability to return to solutions that are working and also advance innovations in Medicaid and other areas of healthcare reform that will better serve the people of their state.
So let me say, Governor, the President and I truly grateful for your leadership in Maine. We're truly grateful for your support of this opportunity to repeal and replace Obamacare. And we're grateful to the people of Maine, so many of which are supporting this effort to return to what was working in Maine. And we're encouraging Senator King, but especially we're encouraging today Senator Susan Collins to join us in this effort to give the people of the Maine, to give the government of Maine the resources and the flexibility to be able to craft solutions that will improve the lives and improve the health of the people of Maine.
So, Governor LePage, thank you for your leadership, and we're so grateful.
GOVERNOR LEPAGE: Well, it’s great to be here, and it’s very important for the people of Maine to have the ability to go back to Public Law 90 or something similar to it. The high-risk pool was really helping lower premiums, lower the deductibles on people in Maine. And unfortunately what Obamacare did is it robbed nursing homes and homecare services, and we need to go back. We’ve made those reforms. We are helping Mainers, particularly our elderly since we're the oldest state in America. And so our needs are much different than some of the younger states. And our children -- we need to protect our children. They're the future of Maine.
So these are all very, very important things, and we in Maine know what our needs are better than people here in Washington. And the Vice President and the President both recognize that one size does not fit all. And our needs are all different.
And so I’m really in big support of Graham-Cassidy, and I’d really urge the senator to really take a hard look -- both Senators Collins and King -- to help Maine people go back to affordable healthcare and healthcare that works.
And we have already -- who are leading the nation in preexisting conditions -- back in 2011, when we passed Public Law 90, preexisting conditions were taken care of. It’s a state requirement. And therefore -- and it did not affect people’s premiums because we did it in a very innovative way, is what we call it “behind the curtain.” People didn't even know it. All we need to know if you had a preexisting condition, the state took care of it.
Q Mr. Vice President, what’s your answer to all of the medical groups, the American Medical Association, the American Heart Association that say this is a bad bill?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: The American people know that Obamacare has failed. The truth is you've seen premiums rise in Maine by 55 percent, but in many states around the country, we've premiums increase since Obamacare became law by 100 percent and even 200 percent.
The average American family is paying more than $3,000 a year more for health insurance today. And in the state of Maine, 34,000 residents of Maine actually chose to pay the penalty to the IRS instead of paying for insurance that didn't provide adequate coverage for them and for their families.
GOVERNOR LEPAGE: And in the next cycle, we're looking at 40 percent increases in premiums to our elderly who are living on fixed income.
You can say what you want, and all these organizations can say what they want, but they got to sit in my seat -- we see people go without insurance.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: The American people know we can do better. They know that we can have a fresh start in healthcare reform. We can repeal the individual mandate. We can repeal the business mandate, and we can allow states like Maine to return to solutions that were working.
The high-risk pool known as Public Law 90 in Maine was working. It was making coverage available and affordable. It was making coverage available for people with preexisting conditions. Graham-Cassidy requires coverage for people with preexisting conditions. It creates those protections. It creates a more equitable distribution of resources over time to states all around the country on a per-person basis.
But we just -- with all due respect to competing opinions out there, the American people know we can do better than Obamacare.
And the example that we saw in Maine before Obamacare gives us great confidence that by empowering states with resources and flexibility, we’ll provide better healthcare, and we’ll improve the lives of the people.
GOVERNOR LEPAGE: And since our reforms in Maine, we've been able to add 40 percent more revenues to our nursing homes, and we've been able to add 60 percent more revenues into our homecare, so we're keeping people in their homes longer independent of confined nursing homes. And I’m telling you, people want to live in their homes as long as they possibly can.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: That's right. One more.
Q What happens if Maine voters decide to expand Medicaid?
GOVERNOR LEPAGE: If Maine voters expand Medicaid, what’s going to happen is exactly what happened when I came into the governorship in 2011. We're going to owe -- we won’t be able to pay our hospitals. We were $1.3 billion in the red, and it took me six years to fix it. And how we fixed it, is we brought our liquor business back into the state of Maine -- because it was leased by a previous governor. And now we're using that to help pay for the bonds we had to borrow to pay off the last billion dollars -- $750 million of unpaid hospital bills.
Now the only option from now on would be to double up on your drinking, and I don't want that for Maine people.
Q Some analysts say that Maine is --
GOVERNOR LEPAGE: No. Maine is a net gain in this plan. Matter of fact, if you read the Wall Street Journal, Maine benefits. This is why I’m so aggressive on it: Maine actually comes out ahead on this for the first time in decades that Maine is going to be ahead in the future of healthcare in this country.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: And let’s be clear on one last point, whether it be the individual market, on which Maine was a national leader with the high-risk pool in Public Law 90; or whether it be in the ability to innovate and reform Medicaid, as we did when I was governor of the state of Indiana; by block-granting resources back to the states, we're inviting 50 different states to create new innovations that will make healthcare more accessible, more affordable, and it will improve people’s lives.
That's the real solution to the failed policies of Obamacare -- is empower states like Maine, like my home state of Indiana and every state in the union with the resources and the flexibility to craft solutions that will work for the people of their state. And we couldn’t be more grateful to Governor LePage for his support, for the support of governors around the country that are beginning to step forward on this measure -- more than 15 governors around America and that list is growing.
But Graham-Cassidy is an idea whose time has come. President Trump and I are absolutely determined to carry this case all across the country and to call on members of the Senate -- most especially Senator Susan Collins from the great state of Maine -- to join us in giving the people of Maine and the people of America a fresh start on healthcare reform that promotes freedom, promotes individual choice, individual markets and reforms, and state-based solutions in healthcare.
So thank you, Governor. It’s great to have you at the White House.
GOVERNOR LEPAGE: Thank you.
END 10:33 A.M. EDT