September 1, 2013

Washington Notebook: Clinic head says 'doughnut hole' may last under Obamacare

A sizable population will be left without health insurance, Caroline Teschke of the Portland Community Free Clinic says.

By Kevin Miller kmiller@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

The Portland Community Free Clinic caters to Mainers caught in the dreaded "doughnut hole" -- earning too much to qualify for MaineCare but too little to buy health insurance.

click image to enlarge

Director Caroline Teschke says the Portland Community Free Clinic is "an essential safety net."

Telegram file photo/Gabe Souza

"We are an essential safety net," said director Caroline Teschke, whose clinic serves about 600 people, on a $100,000 budget culled from grants and with the help of volunteer doctors and nurses.

The Affordable Care Act -- also known as Obamacare -- was intended to reduce the ranks of the uninsured. But the law may not necessarily close the "doughnut hole," according to Teschke. The administration of Gov. Paul LePage resisted efforts to expand MaineCare, the state's Medicaid program, under the law. And a sizable population will remain who won't be able to afford subsidized insurance on the new health care exchanges that start on Oct. 1, Teschke predicted.

During a tour of the facility last week, U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree told clinic workers and volunteers that she's "thrilled" the clinic fills a needed gap in services, but that she wishes universal health insurance would make free clinics unnecessary. Pingree is married to S. Donald Sussman, majority owner of MaineToday Media, publisher of the Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram, Kennebec Journal and Morning Sentinel.

Meanwhile, the political battles over Obamacare will continue this month in Washington as some Republicans attempt to defund the controversial law even while Congress attempts to work out a larger budget deal to avoid a government shutdown.

2ND DISTRICT RACE TAKING SHAPE

There were numerous additions and subtractions this past week to the Republican field of contenders for Maine's 2nd Congressional District. Here's a quick recap for those trying to keep track:

Bruce Poliquin officially joined the race while former Senate President Kevin Raye of Perry and state Sen. Richard Rosen of Bucksport both told the Portland Press Herald that they intended to run as well. Blaine Richardson of Belfast had declared his candidacy earlier.

Meanwhile, Rep. Alex Willette of Mapleton withdrew from the race and former House Minority Leader Josh Tardy of Newport said he had decided not to run.

The Democratic field held steady at three declared candidates: Sen. Troy Jackson of Allagash, Sen. Emily Cain of Orono and Alden Smith of Sangerville. But with Labor Day coming, expect more announcements.

OTHER PPP POLL RESULTS

The firm Public Policy Polling released the results of statewide polling gauging Mainers' approval or disapproval of elected officials. Following are the results of a few of the "other" questions that PPP asked of 953 Maine voters:

48 percent of poll respondents would legalize marijuana compared to 39 percent who wouldn't and 14 percent who couldn't make up their mind.

54 percent of Republicans polled would support impeaching President Obama.

If they had to choose, Mainers would rather move to Canada than to the South (meaning the Southern states, not Maine's southern counties) by a margin of 44 percent to 29 percent. The remaining 27 percent apparently didn't even want to entertain the thought.

Staff Writer Joe Lawlor contributed to this report.

Kevin Miller can be contacted at 317-6256 or at:

kmiller@pressherald.com

Twitter: @KevinMillerDC

 

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