Interviews

Gov. LePage: Pre-existing conditions should not set rates

Maine's Republican governor touts 'high-risk pools' as solution to health care reform on 'Your World'

 

This is a rush transcript from "Your World," May 2, 2017. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

NEIL CAVUTO, HOST: Well, on this health care thing that Lee was alluding to here, there is a push -- and Vice President Pence is leading it -- to try to go for a redo on this.

And they're hearkening back to something my next guest is doing in the state of Maine, where they have a high-risk pool for those who otherwise would have a tough time getting insurance.

Maine Republican Governor Paul LePage on that.

And, Governor, very good to have you.

First off, on what's going on with this back and forth among Republicans, if The Wall Street Journal is to be believed, they could be on the verge of botching it again.

GOV. PAUL LEPAGE, R-MAINE: Yes.

CAVUTO: They could be on the verge of either having to shelve vote or not-- or go down the defeat. What then? If that were to happen, Governor, what then?

LEPAGE: Well, I think, you know, there is some talk about -- out there that Maine has a high-risk pool and we have adopted it.

There is something that concerns me a little bit that I think the Republicans should take a very hard look at. And that is, have the high- risk pool. It is very important. It worked in Maine. We lowered premiums by 69 percent in the individual market.

But one thing that I don't think is important to the bill and important that Republicans stay on is this whole idea that preexisting conditions should be used to set rates. I think that needs to go away. That goes away, this bill becomes a very good bill. Then it would mirror Maine, and I think America could move forward.

CAVUTO: All right, so what's the difference, if you can educate me, Governor, between a high-risk pool and one filled those with preexisting conditions, presumably a high-risk bunch?

LEPAGE: Well, a high-risk pool simply means that people can go out, they register for insurance, and then we know whether or not they have a preexisting condition, and they go and in the back room and they get their insurance and go on.

The insurance company...

CAVUTO: Do they pay more for that, Governor?

LEPAGE: No, that's the point.

CAVUTO: OK.

LEPAGE: The point is, they have registered into the high-risk pool. And then everything is done in the back office.

They get their insurance, they move on, the same insurance that all of us get. And then the insurance company and the government say, we have a high-risk pool. Government, you are going to pay a little extra here.

Nobody knows who is in the high-risk pool, including the people that said that they have a preexisting condition.

CAVUTO: But the insurance company or companies are making it clear whoever is in that, and you don't know who those individuals are, their increased costs are being borne by those participating, not the individuals and their premiums.

LEPAGE: That is exactly right. People with a preexisting condition -- a preexisting condition shouldn't be a factor in establishing rates.

And that -- we realized that in Maine. And our program worked very well. And I think that's what the federal government should have done.

CAVUTO: All right, well, the bottom line, we don't know now, but whether they can sort this through this preexisting stuff, because I talked to one congressman, Mike Kelly of Pennsylvania, who wasn't entirely sure whether preexisting conditions would be covered by all the states. So that got some alarms and hackles up.

But let me ask about that. If, for some reason, whether it is the preexisting thing, Governor, or the high-risk pool or trying to, you know, imitate what you're doing and they fail, they -- Republicans really can't have another botched attempt at this, can they?

LEPAGE: Well, you know, no.

I think, the first time around, they should have done a little bit more homework. I think, this time, we're so, so close. I really believe, Neil, we are very, very close to having a deal. I think we have to look at preexisting condition. And people with a preexisting condition cannot be penalized.

And if you go to the high-risk pool, and let that work out like it did in Maine, I think everybody is going to be surprisingly satisfied with what's happening. Premiums will go down, more people will get insured, and the system works.

And the big issue right now is, we cannot wait much longer, because the insurers are leaving our states. We're down to...

CAVUTO: Well, that's happening -- yes, that's happening across the country.

Real quickly, though, and if it does fail -- and I don't want to jinx it, because it's possible they could turn this around -- and maybe in the public light, people who say they would vote against it wouldn't vote against it -- but if it fails, do they just junk this, move on to tax cuts, try to get that done, savage something there?

LEPAGE: Not in my mind.

CAVUTO: OK.

LEPAGE: I think this is critical. I don't see how you can have tax cuts without a health care system that works in this nation.

We have to have health care that is going to work. When I became the governor of Maine, we had the precursor to ObamaCare. It was failing. We were in red ink. We couldn't pay our bills to the hospital. We changed it. We passed a bill called PL-90 that did have the high-risk pools, allowed us to go across state lines to buy insurance. And it worked.

CAVUTO: Interesting.

LEPAGE: And so I think we're so, so close now. I would urge all -- every member of Congress to really look at what we did in Maine, because it did work. It can work. It will work.

CAVUTO: All right, Governor, thank you. Good seeing you.

LEPAGE: It's a pleasure to be back.

CAVUTO: All right, be well.

END

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