Interviews

Gov. LePage urges GOP to unite, act on ObamaCare replacement

Maine's Republican governor says if Republicans do nothing, they'll be on the outside looking in come 2018

 

This is a rush transcript from "Your World," March 7, 2017. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

NEIL CAVUTO, HOST:  All right, I counted at least seven times there these representatives of party leadership have being saying their measure, their ObamaCare repeal and replace measure, has the full support of the president of the United States.  

That is pivotal, because you just heard about 40 minutes ago leading conservatives within the House and the Senate say it doesn't have their support, and they don't care if the president is standing by this one.  
They don't like it.

They call this ObamaCare-lite, that it's an albatross, a big old program. They don't have time for it or interest in it.  They say that a lot of the onerous taxes associated with the Affordable Care Act remain in place at least through the end of this year, some say maybe through the end of next year.  It's too early to tell, that this has not been scored by the Congressional Budget Office.

And they say, to add insult to injury, it doesn't do much to correct the problem that it was trying to address in the first place, runaway costs. No guarantees, they say, that is, conservatives, that this will do anything to rein in health care spending.  

Then there's the issue of states that use Medicaid and that expansion and those dollars as they see fit.  So, a number of governors have said go slow on rescinding that right away.

Maine Republican Governor Paul LePage joins me now on all of these fast- moving developments.  

Governor, thank you for your patience from all of these competing press conferences.  

GOV. PAUL LEPAGE, R-MAINE:  Oh, it's a pleasure to be here.  

CAVUTO:  Sir, what do you make of this right now?  

Obviously, there's this group outside the White House that claims that Donald Trump is on their side, conservatives willing to buck this leadership and the president, saying that this isn't the measure for them. What about you?  

LEPAGE:  Well, what I have looked at thus far is, I think it's a first step, and I'm encouraged.  It's repealing and replacing.  

There's a lot of talk about that. But I think the next thing we have got to do is start reforming.  And, as the state of Maine, it's a rural state. We're the oldest state in the union.  And we did not expand under the ObamaCare program.  

I do have some concerns.  And the devil is in the details.  So, I'm waiting.  I did send a letter to Speaker Ryan today.  And I am going to Washington on Friday to meet with Secretary Price.  I think it's very, very important that we get it right.  

The American people deserve to get it right.  As I see it right now, some of the things, I'm concerned about the per capita cap, instead of having -- giving complete flexibility to the states.  And that concerns me a great deal.  

And one thing that is missing that I think is going to be crucial and it's going to be important for me to sign on is, there's got to be a work requirement for able-bodied people.  If there's no work requirement, and if it's free, I can only say this.  Free is very expensive to somebody.  

CAVUTO:  Governor, excuse me, but there's so much we don't know.  Maybe I'll get into this more with the health and human services secretary, Tom Price, tomorrow on this show.  

But one of the things he mentioned in his remarks to reporters earlier is that it's not perfect, but this is a heck of a lot better than what we have got.  I'm paraphrasing there to say that, yes, conservatives are upset with this. Some might have a problem with keeping the Medicaid expansion as it is.  

I don't whether your state directly benefits from that, Governor, whether you chose to do so.

LEPAGE:  Oh, we didn't qualify.  

CAVUTO:  But this is the best that can be done for the time being.

What do you say?

LEPAGE:  Yes.  Yes.  

Well, what I say is this.  What I read from the House today, like I said, it's a first step.  I was more encouraged in listening to some of the comments made by Secretary Price when he said buying across state lines, saying that the cost of drugs would have to come down, that we need more flexibility in the states.  

CAVUTO:  Right.  

LEPAGE:  That's encouraging.  

At the same token, Maine did not qualify for the Medicaid expansion because we had expanded early on in 2000.  We were considered an early expander.  

CAVUTO:  I see.

LEPAGE:  And so we never got the 90 percent and 100 percent.  That really concerns me, because it looks right now that the 19 states that did not expand could very well be thrown under the bus.  

CAVUTO:  Governor, real quickly on this, do you think that it's going to be a problem for Republicans if we're still dealing with a lot of people who could potentially lose their health care coverage?  

There are upwards of 19.5 million who have it right now through ObamaCare, that a good many could lose it, either not translating in to get these health benefits or credits to continue their coverage, but that, net-net, the costs of health care coverage will slow?

In other words, it will not be that onerous, and the time will come when they can get it back.  That was kind of the pitch that some were making.  

LEPAGE:  Well, I will say this.  And let me expand on that a little bit.

This year, Maine was not an expander.  And our growth in Medicaid this year is 0.7, seven-tenths of 1 percent, less than 1 percent.  We have adjusted. We're in.  

What I'm concerned about is the expansion states, if they continue with the expansion, they're going to force our budget, like it was in 2011 when I took over.  Every six months, I had to ask legislature for a $250 million appropriation because our health care was out of control.  

So, unless they deal with the cost drivers and they have -- they have a work requirement for able-bodied people, because, in Maine, what happened in 2010, everybody dropped their commercial insurance and went to Medicaid.

And it just blew the budget.  

CAVUTO:  Yes, real quickly, sir, do you think this is dividing Republicans, though, the conservatives who don't like the fact that it still seems like a big government program, moderates who didn't like the fact that this was defunding Planned Parenthood?  They thought that was taking a leap too far.

What do you think?  

LEPAGE:  Well, I really think that, guys, you have got to get together and get this done, because I will say this.

If you do nothing, in 2018, you're all going to be outside looking in.  

CAVUTO:  All right, Governor, thank you.  

END

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