What happens to people critically ill without the ACA in Maine?


January 5th, 2014 

by State Senator John Patrick of Rumford

We are just a few days into 2014. For many of us, ringing in a new year is the marker of new beginnings. Often, we make new year’s resolutions that include a pledge to be healthier. For many, we are fortunate: accessing health care and getting our medical needs tended to is not met with obstacles and challenges. But, for the tens of thousands of Mainers who don’t have health insurance and can’t afford the out-of-pocket expense of going to the doctor, getting basic health care is often saved just for emergencies.

When folks can’t get the care they need, more serious health problems often arise and the quality, and sometimes even the length of their life, is diminished. For 3,000 veterans and tens of thousands of other Mainers, New Year’s Day was not likely a day for celebration. It was the day they lost their existing MaineCare health insurance.

What is going to happen to those folks who are in the middle of treatment for cancer or diabetes? What about those who have a heart condition? What choices do they now have?

Next week, the Legislature returns to work and we will, once again, have the opportunity to do something to help Mainers who lack basic health care.

At no cost to Maine taxpayers, we can accept the federal government’s offer to expand MaineCare health insurance to 70,000 of our neighbors. The federal government will pick up 100 percent of the costs for the first three years, and then will gradually ratchet down to no less than 90 percent of the costs.

Additionally, if after the first three years, Mainers decide the program isn’t working, we can opt out — with no penalties. Imagine how many lives we can save and improve, and made healthier, by just giving this deal a chance.

While the Affordable Care Act is a good first step in ensuring more Americans have access to the health care they need, states need to step up to the plate and do their part to ensure the people in their states, who may have fallen through the cracks, have a chance at basic health care.

Fortunately, the federal government has made it easy: Maine could do as 25 other states and the District of Columbia have already done: accept the federal government’s offer to expand MaineCare health insurance.

Even other conservative governors have accepted this deal to help the folks in their states — and so too should Governor LePage. It is time for him to put aside politics and instead do what’s morally and economically right for the people of Maine.

Accepting this deal will save Maine $690 million over the next ten years, create more than 3,000 health-care jobs, and inject $250 million into our economy.

The truth is, this deal is not about whether or not you like the Affordable Care Act. It is about ensuring 70,000 of our neighbors have access to the care they need, creating health care jobs, and saving money.

Every family should have a family doctor, and no one should have to fear that a medical emergency may lead to bankruptcy. Accepting this deal brings us one step closer to making that goal a reality.