By Rep. Mark Eves, D-North Berwick
September 20, 2012
For many Maine families, finding access to affordable health care is their biggest struggle and recently, some found themselves without any at all. This race to the bottom began when the Republican-controlled Legislature chose to cut many low-income, elderly or disabled people from the little care coverage they had leaving them with few options.
As you may have read in the news, Governor Paul LePage and Republican state lawmakers voted to remove nearly 30,000 people from Medicaid and now they need a waiver from the federal government to make many of these cuts.
As I said in a recent column, the debate over the waiver may sound like inside bureaucratic wrangling, but the consequences will have a real and devastating impact on thousands of Maine seniors, people with disabilities, working families, and children living in poverty.
Think about it this way: When sick people need care, hospitals cannot turn them away. Instead, they pass on those costs to people who do have insurance or cities and towns have to pick up the bill.
The truth is Democrats and Republicans mostly agree that our health care system needs to be more affordable. We just have starkly different solutions for how to lower those costs. Taking health care away from Mainers in need or making it so unaffordable that people will not be able to access it is not reforming the system - and it won’t save taxpayers money in the long run. It will just create a cost shift.
Another policy that the Republicans have trumpeted is a bill that stripped away vital consumer protections that have been in place for decades. My colleagues and I feared that insurance companies would charge more for policies depending on how old you are, where you live, and what kind of work you do.
Now we are hearing that small businesses and individuals across the state, especially in rural areas, have seen their health insurance skyrocket. Individuals in rural Maine, those over the age of 50 and small companies with a handful of employees have been hit the hardest.
Since the law passed, insurance companies have hiked rates -- with no prior approval -- to increase their profits by nearly $1.8 million, according to the Maine Bureau of Insurance.
Augusta shouldn’t be picking winners and losers especially when it concerns an individual’s health.
When it comes to health care we should be focused on making sure that everyone has access to affordable, quality care. We should be trying to lower rates for rural Mainers and small businesses, not making it easier to charge them more.
Unfortunately, these significant health care changes were made in partisan and divisive votes. Our health care crisis is too big to be solved by one party alone. We should be working together to find solutions and listening to all experts at the table. I hope we can return to the Augusta next year and work together to make health care more affordable for everyone.
Mark Eves is in his second term in the Maine State Legislature, representing House District 146, encompassing North Berwick and part of South Berwick. He is the Democratic lead on the Health and Human Services Committee.