TOPSHAM — Maine voters must be informed that Republican Gov. Paul LePage has shown no compassion for Mainers without health insurance and has misled the public on a solution to an acute problem many face without health insurance.
LePage vetoed a bipartisan-sponsored proposal introduced by two moderate Republicans to expand eligibility for Medicaid, with the costs for this expansion paid by the federal government for the first three years and 90 percent after that. He also opposed an initiative to improve efficiency, which other states have implemented with success. His actions leave a very large number of Mainers without health insurance.
To live without health insurance is terrifying. Those without health insurance have higher rates of illness and lower rates of productivity, and they cost everybody for delayed and expensive health care.
Maine is just one of two states in the nation where the number of people without health insurance increased in 2013 – by close to 12,000 people, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. This is a huge negative reputation. It creates family hardships for those with low incomes and places unnecessary stress on every hospital and physician.
This situation could have been avoided. Most of those without health insurance would be insured right now if LePage had worked with the Legislature and approved the expansion. Taxpayers would have had a return on their taxes by money flowing back to the state.
But rather than approve the Medicaid expansion, as 27 states and the District of Columbia have done – including the five other states in New England – Maine’s governor has proposed a solution that is both misleading and a flip-flop from his previous positions and statements.
LePage wants uninsured Maine residents to sign up for health insurance under the health care exchange, a program made possible by the Affordable Care Act. He has failed to explain the full story to Maine voters.
The health care exchange is very different from MaineCare, as Medicaid is known in Maine. Not everybody with low incomes is eligible to sign up for a subsidy to help pay health insurance premiums. In fact, because Maine is not taking part in the MaineCare expansion, there are about 25,000 Mainers who will neither qualify for MaineCare nor qualify for any subsidy to help pay for health insurance.
If a family of three is earning $19,790 per year or less, they are not eligible for a subsidy. They would be required to pay the full health insurance premium, which they’re not going to be able to afford.
Even if a family of three makes enough money to qualify for a subsidy, they would be required to pay a premium on a sliding-scale basis. Not only that, there are large deductibles and co-payments for everybody who signs up for the exchange. These are out-of-pocket costs to be paid before the insurance takes effect.
LePage has been misleading Maine voters. He has certainly not told the full story. It is a cruel hoax for those without insurance.
To incite opposition, the governor also has used the completely wrong terminology to describe MaineCare. This is irresponsible and does an injustice to those who need access to health care but cannot pay for it.
MaineCare is not a welfare program, as LePage and other Republicans have stated. It is a federal and state program that pays health care professionals and hospitals for health care services used by those eligible. No funds are paid directly to eligible individuals or families. In this way, MaineCare is like Medicare and most other, private health insurance plans.
Right now, low-income adults without children have no health insurance. Some of these are veterans. There are many Mainers who are coping with health problems that could be prevented or solved if they had access to needed health care.
Gov. LePage is standing in the doorway and saying “no” to these people. His plan to solve the problem will not work, and it will cost individuals money they do not have. This is not compassion. It is not leadership. It is not right for Mainers or for anybody else.
— Special to the Press Herald