In an opinion piece published on the progressive blog “dirigoblue.com,” State Representative Timothy Driscol (D-Westbrook), compared Governor LePage’s proposed DHHS budget to government-run euthanasia. His comments have provoked contrasting responses from Democrat and Republican leadership in Augusta.
“Rep. Tim Driscoll was not working off talking points developed by the House Democratic Office, but he was expressing what tens of thousands of Mainers are feeling in response to the governor’s harmful proposals,” said Jodi Quintero, the communications director for the Maine House Democrats. “As an emergency room nurse, Rep. Driscoll has a frontline view of the lifesaving impact of these critical health care services. We encourage our members to speak their minds and we don’t attempt to censor them. The House Democratic Office believes the governor’s proposal undermines public health and safety and puts our economy in jeopardy.”
Driscoll, a member of the Legislature’s Labor, Commerce, Research and Economic Development Committee, crafted a story in the opinion piece that depicted LePage as “the determiner,” who set up “The Gubernatorial Inquisition on the infirm, the disabled, for children at risk and the most vulnerable of our population, requesting that each individual …come forward singularly so that he (LePage) could determine if they were worthy of help with food, fuel, clothing, shelter or life sustaining health care.”
Driscoll suggests that LePage has already decided the fate of needy Mainers. Driscoll says, “Akin to state sponsored euthanasia, the Determiner had already decided that the State could no longer afford to provide the needed funding for life sustaining treatment, that they were a drag on our economy and that the State could simply not continue to support their life preserving requirements.”
Adrienne Bennett, press secretary for Governor LePage, said in response to Driscoll’s piece, “The Governor has said from the beginning that it is time to put our differences aside and get to work. We have a proposed plan that saves Medicaid for 290,000 people. With limited state resources and the elimination of stimulus funding we must have a conversation about what we can afford as a State. The Governor’s plan addresses the structural problems within the current Medicaid program and acknowledges we’ve moved away from the programs original intent. We are not looking at this from the perspective of what we can cut, we’re looking at it asking ourselves what can we save with the money we have? It would better suit Maine people if Rep. Driscoll added value to this conversation by suggesting solutions, instead of pointing fingers at the Governor. Unfortunately, we are still waiting to hear Representative Driscoll’s plan.”
While Driscoll’s story seems to indicate he believes that LePage’s proposed budget will pass, ultimately the Legislature will decide the fate of the proposed changes in the upcoming session. Driscoll, as a sitting member of the House of Representatives, will be one of the people who determine the outcome of the DHHS budget with his vote on the matter.
Rep. Driscoll co-sponsored a bill in the last legislative session that would institute “single-payer” health care in Maine. A single-payer health care system is similar to Canada’s health care system, where the government, generally via committees, determines how health care is distributed, what will be paid for, and what the wait times will be for procedures. His story attacking a supposed “determiner” of who gets what care seems to conflict with his support of a health care system with similar attributes.
In the same piece, Rep. Driscoll suggests that the governor tore down the “Maine, The Way Life Should Be Sign” that welcomes visitors driving on Maine I-95 north. While the governor did add a new sign under welcoming businesses to Maine (later stolen) there is no record of him ever tearing down the longstanding “Maine, The Way Life Should Be” sign, which still greets drivers.
In response to the controversy, House Speaker Robert Nutting commented that, “I was disappointed with not only the content, but the tone of Representative Driscoll’s column. Finding a solution to the state’s Medicaid shortfall is going to be a difficult process that will require the cooperation of all elected officials, regardless of their political party. The name calling that Representative Driscoll resorts to in this column are beneath him and not helpful to the process.”