Ethan: I have to say, I think the Democrats’ move to tie Gov. Paul LePage’s hospital payment plan with a demand that he agree to expand health care coverage is brilliant. Win-win for both sides.
Phil: We were definitely politically separated at birth. Tell me how this is a win-win.
Ethan: You get the hospitals paid immediately, and Democrats get 70,000 people covered for health care. Hospitals win. The uninsured win. Who loses?
Phil: Ethan, we have delinquent hospital bills going back to your man Gov. John Baldacci’s days, and you suggest that if we are going to pay that bill we must also expand welfare to 70,000 people with the free money out of Washington? The loser is Maine taxpayer Low Lee who has to foot the bill for all these new folks on welfare.
Ethan: Low Lee pays almost nothing. The federal government has agreed to foot 100 percent of the bill for three years and slowly drop down to a 90 percent reimbursement rate thereafter. Compared with the 62.57 percent rate we receive today, you don’t need an MBA to figure out this is a good deal.
Phil: When you make these pronouncements, do you forget that Washington borrows 40 cents on every dollar it spends, and the other 60 cents comes from people who actually pay an income tax?
Ethan: Even the right-wing Heritage Foundation says Maine would save $690 million over the next 10 years. Now I am thinking this is win-win-win — for hospitals, the uninsured and all Maine taxpayers!
Phil: Really? Do I need to remind you that all of the jobs, savings and milk and honey projected by think tanks and other political gurus most always turns out to be reductions in the rate of increase? Or wrong.
Ethan: Look at this thing politically from your side. LePage gets his big prize: paying the hospitals. He has said getting this money into the economy was his top priority. (Who knew he was such a supporter of government sponsored stimulus?) Plus, now he will get to slam Democrats for expanding government to all these undeserving, lazy, low-income people who should simply accept their lot in life and live unhealthy lives. Dude, this is a four-win scenario! Win-win-win-win!
Phil: You can’t help yourself, can you? Not paying our bills and expanding welfare is what created this $500-million problem, and you want the Democrats to force the governor to do it all over again?
Ethan: I want 70,000 people to receive health insurance, although I am ecstatic to see the Democrats playing hardball. Too often it feels like the governor sets the agenda, and we simply fold or lock horns. This time, Dems said, “You want yours? We want ours.” That is how politics should be.
Phil: And that’s what is so concerning in America today. The politicians get into the “let’s make a deal” mindset, driven by emotion and quest for power.
Ethan: Offering a compromise that covers 70,000 people with health care is a quest for power?
Phil: Making 70,000 more dependent on government isn’t what made America a shining example of freedom in the history of humankind. Instead, creating an environment where choice and quality come first will empower people to find the health care they want.
Ethan: Having the highest percentage of uninsured in the industrialized world does not make America a shining example in the history of humankind.
Phil: Paying our bills is something we expect of the private sector. Why isn’t that acceptable in the government sector?
Ethan: No one says it is acceptable to not pay our bills. The issue is whether we borrow money to do it or pay it over time.
Phil: So far it’s three years and counting. What would you consider an acceptable period of time for you to collect the money government owes your nonprofit?
Ethan: The money owed the hospitals is about 1 percent of what they have been paid over the past 10 years. If the government had paid me 99 percent and needed a few years to pay the rest, I think I could handle it. On the other hand, 10-15 percent of our population has been uninsured for much longer than three years. How long is it acceptable to you that people remain without health insurance?
Phil: Isn’t that their choice? When did you decide your oath of office empowered you to decide what another citizen’s health insurance, or the lack thereof, was your right as a legislator to purchase?
Ethan: Their choice to not be able to afford health insurance? Wow. Look, clearly Democrats think providing health care is a top priority. Clearly Republicans think paying hospitals is a top priority. I am willing to vote to pay the hospitals, as long as you vote to cover the uninsured. Can you do the same? Is providing health care that antithetical to Republican values?
Phil: I think Albert Einstein said it best, “Insanity: Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”
Ethan: So, how about we try something different for the first time since the governor took office: Give a little to get a little. How refreshing would that be?