When it comes to health care policy, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan said Thursday that he prefers to chart a middle path between Democrats who would like to preserve Obamacare in its present form and some Republicans who would like to repeal and replace it.

"I said to these guys — and I said it publicly — neither one of those is going to happen and neither one of those makes any sense," Hogan, a Republican, told the Carroll County Times in an interview Thursday afternoon during his daylong visit to the county. "As we've been doing on almost every issue, find common ground, find common sense, bipartisan solutions.


"I pleaded with our representatives to try and do that. Instead they came to Annapolis and held press conferences and demanded that I criticize Donald Trump," Hogan continued, adding it makes more sense to work together to improve the existing health care law. "Why don't you guys go back to Washington and work on it instead of coming out to Annapolis and trying to get me involved in something that is going on in Congress?"

While hundreds sat in Carroll Community College's Scott Theater as Hogan and his team spoke during a regional Cabinet meeting Thursday morning — the first stop in a countywide tour — a small, quiet group stood inside another building with protest signs.

"Hogan protect my healthcare!!"

"Hogan Dump Trump!!"

"Trumpcare hurts Carroll Co!"

The small group of people, made up of members of the Carroll County Democratic Central Committee, the Carroll County Democratic Club and Sen. Richard Madaleno, a Montgomery County Democrat who earlier this week declared he was seeking his party's nomination to challenge Hogan for the governor's seat in 2018, stood inside the college's Great Hall.

"He's hiding from the impact of Trumpcare on the people of Carroll County and western Maryland," Madaleno said. "He's afraid to say anything about it anywhere. He needs to speak up for Marylanders."

A GOP proposal known as the American Health Care Act — dubbed "Trumpcare" by its opponents — was passed in the Republican-controlled U.S. House of Representatives on May 4. The bill is now in the U.S. Senate, which is also controlled by Republicans.

Amid the Democrats' call for Hogan to take a stand on the American Health Care Act, the governor did take time during Thursday's visit to speak about health care and the GOP's bill, something he hasn't been very vocal about as the bill has worked its way through Congress.

Obamacare, formally known as the Affordable Care Act, did not contain the costs of insurance premiums as promised, Hogan said, noting that an insurer in the Maryland health care market recently requested a 50 percent rate increase, so leaving President Obama's signature legislation untouched is untenable.

At the same time, the governor has defended the Affordable Care Act's expansion of Medicaid eligibility — in a January letter to Congress, Hogan noted that the expansion had provided health insurance coverage to more than 260,000 low-income Marylanders.

"We have to fix those things that are broken," he said Thursday, "but we also have to protect the people that are covered under the Medicaid expansion."

The AHCA in its current form would reduce Medicaid funding, and has led Maryland Democrats to call on Hogan to protest President Donald Trump. But Hogan said Thursday he believed that legislation would eventually be abandoned for a compromise solution.

"It's only the House. There is, I think, no chance of that passing in the Senate, so it's a lot of kind of hyperventilating over something that might never happen," Hogan said. "Protesting isn't going to help; I think we ought to sit down with the folks on each side and try to fix it."


Still, some are calling for Hogan to take a stronger stance.

Frank Rammes, a Westminster resident and president of the Carroll County Democratic Club who was a part of Thursday's demonstration in response to Hogan's tour, said he actually sat in the morning Cabinet meeting. He wanted to hear what Hogan had to say about the GOP's health care bill and its recent passage in the House, though the governor did not address the issues in his morning speech.

"Silence implies consent," Rammes said. "He needs to take a stand."

Social media highlights of Gov. Hogan visit to Carroll County

Gov. Larry Hogan and other members of state government visited Carroll County Thursday May 11, 2017.

Hogan and his administration have been meeting with federal officials, including Vice President Mike Pence and Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price on the topic of health care, particularly Maryland's unique all-payer system. Under that system, a medical service such as an MRI scan costs the same for all "payers" in the marketplace — be they private insurance companies or Medicare — rather than each payer negotiating their own rate with each hospital. This has been credited with keeping costs down in Maryland

"We've had some very good discussions with Secretary Price, not only about protecting our unique situation with the Medicare waiver, but they actually like the idea and may even want to encourage other states to do what we're doing," Hogan said. "We have a better system that saves taxpayers money and provides better health care."

Whether Maryland becomes a model for health care nationwide is still not a certainty however. Hogan confirmed that the future of the all-payer system, which is based on a special "Medicare waiver" Maryland has maintained with the federal government since the late 1970s, is still being negotiated, but he is optimistic.