AUGUSTA, Maine — Republican U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin hopes to successfully defend his seat in a longtime independent-minded district that sent a historic electoral vote to President Donald Trump in 2016. He faces challenges from Democratic state representative and former Marine Jared Golden as well as lawyer Tiffany Bond and educator Will Hoar, both of whom are independents, in a race that could become the most expensive congressional race in Maine history.
Poliquin, 64, has tried to cast 36-year-old Golden as a young radical pushing "socialized medicine" while pointing to the congressman's own record of pushing for less red tape and lower taxes. Poliquin is defending himself from claims by Golden and out-of-state Democrats that he voted to strip 117,000 Mainers of health coverage. Medicaid coverage is a central issue in Maine, where voter-approved Medicaid expansion has been held up, and Poliquin joins numerous Republican candidates nationwide trying to explain their stance on protections for people with pre-existing conditions.
A look at the claims:
POLIQUIN: "No, I voted for a replacement plan," in response to a question about whether he voted to repeal former President Obama's signature health law in an Oct. 12 interview with WMTW-TV.
THE FACTS: Poliquin was Maine's only congressional representative who voted yes on the unsuccessful 2017 House GOP bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act, but the bill would also have replaced the health care law with a new one.
Poliquin had drawn criticism from some conservatives for his 2015 decision to vote against repealing the law. He said he did so because the legislation lacked a replacement plan.
GOLDEN: Poliquin voted to "allow insurance companies to deny health coverage to anyone with a pre-existing condition," said the candidate in an Oct. 9 campaign ad.
POLIQUIN: "Look at the bill that I voted on it. It includes, specifically, specifically covering those with pre-existing conditions." Oct. 8, candidate forum.
THE FACTS: The House GOP bill that Poliquin voted for would have continued to require that people with pre-existing conditions be offered health insurance. However, it likely would have made it more expensive for individuals with pre-existing medical conditions to afford health insurance.
The House GOP bill would have let states ask for permission to allow insurers to charge higher premiums for some individuals with pre-existing medical conditions. People could be charged more only if they bought coverage through the individual market and had a gap in coverage.
But the Congressional Budget Office and the Joint Committee on Taxation found people with pre-existing conditions would struggle to afford health insurance because the bill would cause premiums to increase rapidly. That report said the House GOP bill would increase the number of people who are uninsured by 23 million in 2026.
Poliquin's spokesman said the congressman believes insurance companies should be required to cover those with pre-existing conditions, including Poliquin's son. Poliquin's spokesman questioned the Congressional Budget Office's figures, and said insurers are already ceasing offering plans on "Obamacare" exchanges.
Golden's spokesman Bobby Reynolds said the House GOP bill would have effectively denied coverage to individuals with pre-existing conditions by pricing them out of health insurance.