The half-baked, mean-spirited, dangerous health care reform bill that Republican leaders in the U.S. House of Representatives failed to muscle through the legislative process in March has been the subject of vigorous debate between supporters and critics on the right and left.

One voice, however, has been missing.

Maine’s 2nd Congressional District Rep. Bruce Poliquin has refused to say where he stands, even after the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimated that passage of the bill would result in the immediate loss of health insurance to 14 million Americans, and add 24 million by 2026.

And now, as the House considers a revised version of the bill, known as the American Health Care Act, Poliquin’s vote could be pivotal, affecting not only tens of thousands of Mainers who buy their health insurance on the “Obamacare” exchanges, but also millions of other Americans.

Still, at least publicly, he won’t make up his mind.

He hasn’t been completely silent. He clearly stated that he opposes existing law, the Affordable Care Act, which he predicts is on the verge of failure. But he supports preserving key elements of the ACA, especially the prohibition against companies refusing to sell insurance to people with pre-existing medical conditions.


Now that Republican bill has been revised and is careening toward a vote as soon as Thursday, Poliquin may soon be forced finally to take a stand. At least at this writing, though, he says he’s still thinking.

Poliquin has all the information that he needs to figure out how to vote, and that vote should be “no.”

The original bill would have been terrible for the nation, but it would have been particularly bad for Maine, especially the rural parts of the state that make up Poliquin’s district.

For instance, the bill would change the Obamacare regulations that limited how much more insurance companies could charge people when they age. The CBO estimated that the uninsured rate for people over 50 would increase from 13 percent today to nearly 30 percent.

And the bill would attempt to starve state Medicaid programs, by turning the federal payment from a percentage of costs to a per capita subsidy. Any time the cost of care exceeded the level that the federal government decided it wanted to pay, the state would be on the hook.

This would be a particular blow to Maine, where the most expensive-to-care-for Medicaid patients are in nursing homes. As our population ages, there would be pressure on the shrinking workforce to pay more to care for the elderly, while federal help fades away.


That alone should have been enough for Poliquin to stand up for his district and pledge to vote “no,” like many of his Republican colleagues have done. But since the collapse of the first attempt to repeal Obamacare this year, the bill has been revised to make it appeal to the far-right Freedom Caucus, which should have made it even less palatable for a representative from Maine.

One amendment rolled out this week would let states opt out of the pre-existing conditions coverage mandate, permitting them to participate in an underfunded program that subsidized high health care costs. Combined with other language in the bill, insurance companies would be able to charge high premiums to the sickest customers, allowing members of Congress to claim that they preserved pre-existing conditions coverage while letting companies make health insurance unaffordable for the people who need it most.

So-called moderates in the House came out with a plan that would add $8 billion to the high-risk pool funds, which sounds like a lot of money, but would not come close to meeting the real world need. Independent analysts estimate that it could cover the costs for about 100,000 of the millions who would be losing their insurance.

What more does Rep. Poliquin need to think about? The evidence already on the record is more than enough to show that this bill would do harm to the people that he represents.

The congressman should stop running and make his position known.

If he supports taking jeopardizing the health of thousands of his constituents, he should say so and explain why.

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