Gov. Paul LePage held two meetings with southern Maine Democrats this week, and he’s not talking about what went on. But the governor can’t be happy about what he heard.

First, on Tuesday, he met with U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree, who told him that her research with the federal Department of Health and Human Services indicates that he will not be able to get the waivers he needs to drop health coverage for 65,000 Mainers. LePage says dropping that coverage is the answer to the state’s fiscal problems.

MaineCare is a joint state and federal program into which Washington pays most of the money. Waivers to the program’s rules, Pingree must have explained to the governor, are given to creative states that want the flexibility to expand health coverage, not to help them pay for tax cuts.

Pingree came out of the meeting saying, “The routes he is taking are illegal and ineligible under the law.”

On Wednesday, LePage summoned Portland’s mayor Michael Brennan to Augusta because Brennan had written to point out the enormous cost shifts that would occur if LePage’s ideas are carried out.

Brennan told the governor that the city of Portland stands to lose $2 million in state support for programs that affect low-income residents. The city’s hospitals would lose $20 million in revenue, resulting in higher costs for people with insurance and cuts to jobs and programs.

LePage challenged Brennan to come up with alternatives, and the mayor delivered. The state could save millions of dollars by managing the cases of the small minority of MaineCare enrollees who account for the biggest share of money spent, Brennan said.

Maine could come up with more revenue to pay for health care by increasing the tax on cigarettes and alcohol, substances that contribute to the chronic problems that drive Maine’s high health costs.

And the state could slow down the implementation of the tax cuts passed last year to address the current crisis.

So if the governor was paying attention, he should have heard this week that his plan to fill a budget hole by cutting health services can’t work under federal law and that there are alternatives.

Let’s see if the Legislature was listening.

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