– JOHN RICHARDSON

Staff Writer

Terri Grover of Portland watched from her home Sunday night as Congress finally passed health-care reform legislation.

She didn’t realize that her 22-year-old daughter, a senior at Bates College, was glued to the television, too.

“My daughter called from college last night at 10:45 and said, ‘They passed it, they passed it! Does that mean I’m going to get insurance?’ ” Grover said.

Grover is pretty sure the answer to that question is “yes.”

The legislation, which still needs to be signed by President Obama and then amended by the U.S. Senate, says dependents will be eligible to stay on their parents’ policies until they turn 26.

However, Grover is still nervous about all of the details in the complex reform package, some of which have yet to be finalized.

Some Mainers, including Grover, said Monday that they’re excited about the legislation.

Others said they fear that the added costs and regulation will just make matters worse.

All agreed, however, that there is much uncertainty and confusion about how it will ultimately affect their health care costs, their jobs and their businesses.

“We all want to know,” Barbara Thorso of South Portland said Monday afternoon between bingo games at the city’s community center.

Thorso, 87, is president of the Three Score Plus Club, which hosts the weekly gathering.

“We’re the general public. This bill is going to cover us,” Thorso said. “I would like to have an understanding of what’s in the package. I don’t have a clue.”

The 10-year, $938 billion bill will eventually extend coverage to 32 million uninsured Americans, prohibit insurance companies from denying coverage to sick people, and create insurance marketplaces, called “exchanges,” intended to make coverage more affordable.

Other changes will be more immediate, such as subsidies to help senior citizens pay for drugs and the requirement to let dependent children remain on their parents’ health insurance plans until age 26.

“It’s really too soon to know how all of this is going to unfold. Some of the provisions of the bill don’t go into effect until 2014, and some after that,” said Katherine Pelletreau, director of the Maine Association of Health Plans, an association of health insurance companies.

“In truth, I’m trying to understand it, to dissect it so we can know what the impacts and (employers’) responsibilities are, and that’s going to take some time,” said Dana Connors, president of the Maine State Chamber of Commerce.

“The big question is . . . does it reduce costs or does it add costs?”

Parker Williams of South Portland believes that the legislation will hurt businesses and cost jobs. “Where are they going to get the money to pay for it?” said Williams. “It will take 10 years before it will start to save money.”

Anne LaForgia of South Portland said she has more faith in President Obama.

“Most of the people our age are very concerned,” said LaForgia, who is 84. “I’m really hopeful. . . . I don’t think it will hurt (seniors covered through Medicare). I’m more worried about the younger people.”

Toni Fizell and Sharon Haskell, both of South Portland, could be directly affected by the legislation. Fizell, who is 59, has no health insurance.

Haskell, who is 63, expects that she will be uninsured, too, after her rate goes up in June.

Both are more nervous about the bill than optimistic.

“It’s scary to listen to (the debate),” Fizell said. “Everybody has to have insurance. . . . How are they going to enforce that?”

The bill will eventually require people to buy insurance or pay fees, and it includes subsidies to help people who can’t afford it.

Haskell, who lost her job and her employer insurance last year, said she doesn’t expect any help from the legislation before she turns 65 and is eligible for Medicare. “I’m just going to look for something part time and pray that I stay healthy,” she said.

Grover, who celebrated on the phone with her daughter, is confident that the legislation will be an improvement, despite all the details.

“Young people will be able to search for the right career for them rather than search for any job that will give them health insurance,” she said. “I wish the whole thing went into effect faster.”

Staff Writer John Richardson can be contacted at 791-6324 or at:

[email protected]