By Rep. Peter Kent
August 15, 2012
Health care and health insurance is a hot topic again with the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision making clear that the Affordable Care Act, now known as “Obamacare,” is absolutely constitutional. Health care has been an important issue for me and my family for many years. I am a small business owner, my wife is a health care professional and we have two young children. We know how expensive health insurance can be and how important it is that effective health care is accessible to as many people as possible.
My family has faced some significant health care issues in the past couple of years. I have spent several days in the hospital with a parent and had to take many days from both my private work and my public service as a legislator with my own health issues this spring.
I am lucky to be fully recovered, but, without health insurance, I have no doubt my family would have been bankrupted. Or much worse, I either would not have been able to spend the time recovering that was necessary, or simply would have risked a trip to the emergency room rather than the crippling cost of surgery.
No one should face such risks to their lives, their families, their jobs or their businesses.
Unfortunately the Republican insurance rate hike passed into law here in Maine last year has made it harder to live and work in Maine, especially in rural areas. It picks winners and losers.
Plus, the law allows insurance companies to increase health insurance rates by up to 10 percent without prior review.
Small businesses and working families across the state have reported skyrocketing insurance rates in the aftermath of the reckless health care changes made by Republican lawmakers in the past two years.
Businesses right here in Sagadahoc and Lincoln Counties and as far south as Sanford have reported increases in rates of 60 percent or higher because of the age of their employees or the kind of work they are doing.
Briggs Advertising in Bath was established in 1987 and for many years has paid 100 percent of their employees’ coverage and 50 percent of any family coverage. Each year they pay more for less coverage.
Walter Briggs has five employees, with two of them and their families covered by their group plan. They have a $9,000 family deductible and last year his family paid $10,000 on health care expenses in addition to the premiums, with less than $2,000 covered by insurance.
After the Republican rate hike bill, Aetna increased his rates by 67 percent.
He had to drop one employee and was prevented from doing any hiring. He can also no longer keep employees on between jobs. Briggs hates not being able to provide better coverage to his employees. As Walter says, “Health care should be a human right.”
The Republicans are trumpeting a race to the bottom in health care coverage. They ask you to pay more out of your pocket for less care. What is the point of having insurance if it isn’t there for you when you need it most? Some of the new insurance plans Republicans are hailing don’t even cover the cost of delivering a baby.
Mainers who are not just out of college, individuals and small businesses in most of Maine are now paying more for insurance, while younger, healthier Mainers in urban areas, like Portland, are being offered cheaper, skeleton coverage, but still not buying it.
Democrats want to make access to health care more affordable, not just offer people cheap health insurance that is still too expensive for young urban people to purchase and dissuades people from seeking preventative care.
Rep. Peter Kent, D-Woolwich, represents Woolwich and parts of Bath, Brunswick, Topsham and West Bath.