Hello. This is David Farmer.
The recent remarks by Gov. Paul LePage have created a lot of clarity and confusion and at least one (more) parody.
In my column last week, I intended to make fun of the fact that LePage compared federal workers to the Gestapo, murderous Nazi secret police.
Instead, one word halted the conversation: Gazpacho.
Gazpacho is much more than just cold soup; it’s a summertime delicacy enjoyed by millions of people around the world.
I apologize for my insensitivity to the word and the offense some connoisseurs may have taken to my suggestion that the governor was actually talking about gazpacho when he said the IRS was like the Gestapo.
It was never my intent to insult or to be hurtful to anyone, especially to those who love the deliciousness of cold soup, but rather to express what can happen when the governor of a state makes a ridiculous comparison between the U.S. government and Nazis because he doesn’t like public policy that passed the Congress, was signed by the president and upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court.
I fear that we have a governor who doesn’t understand what a “socialistic state” is and who is so confused by history and public policy to mistake or misunderstand key elements of both.
We must not repeat this analogy or we are bound to keep repeating it again and again every time a curious reporter – perhaps from Vermont – asks us about it.
This week, I heard from gazpacho-lovers from around Maine, people who I like and admire and who strongly defended their cold soup and refined palates.
We are all looking forward to closure on this unfortunate issue of differing tastes.
But what we must do now is focus on the health care crisis.
In Maine, the governor, backed by a Republican party-line vote, jammed through a new law that raises taxes, increases insurance rates in rural areas and for older workers and turns millions of dollars over to insurance companies in the form of direct government subsidies.
While the governor throws around debunked talking points about Obamacare, real health care reform that will help to control costs and expand access to affordable care, he and his allies passed a rate hike bill that includes a $4 per month tax on everybody who buys health insurance in Maine.
The more than $20 million tax goes to health insurance companies as a subsidy to pay for a high-risk pool. A high-risk pool is “government” supported insurance for people who are too expensive for insurance companies to make a profit on.
Some might even call it “socialism.” And if you really stretched, you might say it’s government health care, although like Obamacare, the high-risk pool actually relies on private insurers to provide coverage.
Let’s compare Obamacare to the LePage-doesn’t-care version of health reform.
Under Obamacare, health insurance companies can’t just raise premiums without justification. They have to prove their case. They can’t place lifetime limits on how much they’ll pay if your family gets sick.
Under Obamacare, you can’t be denied health coverage because of a pre-existing condition, and kids can stay on the parents’ policies until they turn 26.
And Obamacare will help working families afford private health insurance by offering them subsidies based on their income and creating exchanges to make sure there is competition in the insurance marketplace.
Under LePage-Doesn’t-Care, insurance companies in Maine received new authority to charge higher premiums to older customers, customers in rural areas and customers with certain jobs.
Under LePage-Doesn’t-Care, an analysis of the high-risk pool’s financing predicts that the $4 per member per month tax won’t be enough to pay all the costs, and the tax could go up, with little to no public input or transparency.
But the governor didn’t stop there. He has expanded his LePage-Doesn’t-Care policies into MaineCare, where he wants to disregard federal law and deny health insurance coverage to thousands of working families in Maine.
Where Obamacare wants to reduce the number of people who don’t have health insurance, LePage-Doesn’t-Care wants to increase the number.
Working families in Maine shouldn’t have their health insurance taken away from them because they are poor or they work in jobs that don’t provide coverage.
If LePage-Doesn’t-Care is allowed to stand, we will no longer be a state where neighbors look out for one another, where the principles of self-reliance are balanced with an earnest offer of a hand-up when someone is in trouble, where the pursuit of life, liberty and happiness turns into a selfish, me-first attitude that justifies turning your back on the family next door.
Special thanks to the governor and his staff for providing inspiration for this column with his radio address last week.
And I’m sorry. And I promise, no more gazpacho remarks.