If you were going to design a health care plan that would punish Maine’s 2nd Congressional District, you couldn’t do much better than the House Republicans’ proposal to replace the Affordable Care Act.
Their idea is to help younger, healthier and well-off Americans buy insurance by pulling back help from their older, sicker and poorer neighbors. That’s a shot at Maine’s 2nd District, which has a much higher median age than the nation as a whole (44.6 to 37.9) and a much lower median annual income ($44,560 as opposed to $51,939).
In addition, the Republican plan would stop adjusting the size of health insurance tax credits by region, so people who live in places where health coverage is expensive – like rural Maine – would take the biggest hit. The plan has taken heat from those on the left, right and center, but it has one surprising cheerleader: 2nd District U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin.
Poliquin, who has had nothing to say on other matters of national importance, has stepped forward as an early and enthusiastic proponent of a bill that looks like it was drawn up to hurt the people he represents.
“This legislation will bring much-needed health insurance relief to the American people while keeping the promises made to them,” Poliquin said in a prepared statement. The congressman applauded the new plan for keeping some popular features of Obamacare – namely, coverage for people with pre-existing conditions and the inclusion of young adults on their parents’ plan.
Then he said the bill would “make sure insurance companies sell health insurance to everyone who wants it.”
But Poliquin did not address the main reason someone might not “want” health insurance – because they can’t afford it.
The reason health insurance is so expensive is that health care is so expensive, and the plan cooked up by House Republicans would do nothing to change that. President Trump campaigned on promises to bring down the cost of health insurance premiums by negotiating lower prices for prescription drugs, but there is no such language in the bill that Poliquin backs now.
Instead, it cuts taxes on incomes over $200,000 for an individual and $250,000 for a family, and makes up for the loss of revenue by cutting the subsidies that help low- and moderate-income people pay for their coverage.
Sen. Angus King told his colleagues that a 60-year-old in Aroostook County who earns $30,000 a year would see his or her benefit slashed by 70 percent. It is a game, the senator said, of “shift and shaft: shift the cost and shaft the people who need coverage.”
The plan also would shift Medicaid costs onto states over time, which would likely result in higher taxes and fewer services for low-income people and those with disabilities. And it would defund Planned Parenthood, which would further reduce access to affordable health care for women.
It’s clear now why Poliquin did not bother to have a town hall meeting in his district last month. He’s listening to Republican leaders in Washington, not the people of his district.
If he had been listening to them, he might have had something more to say about a plan designed to put the cost of health insurance out of reach for thousands of his constituents than calling it “much-needed relief.”