January 22, 2013

Another View: MaineCare cuts don't save, they just create worse problems


In light of the recent decision by the state government to eliminate roughly 37,000 Mainers from MaineCare, I would like to relay the story of one of my insulin-dependent diabetic patients.

Over the years, she and I worked diligently to get her blood pressure and diabetes under control. We had our fits and starts. However, within the past year she finally did it. I don't know what changed, though I suspect it may have been an abrupt decline in her vision that prompted closer attention to her health.

Whatever the reason, she started exercising. She remembered to take her medications. Her blood sugars came down. She felt better and her health improved.

About four months ago, however, a catastrophe occurred. My patient lost her MaineCare. She could no longer afford her insulin and she could no longer afford her blood pressure medications. Her vision worsened. Her kidney function declined. Her spirits sank, and I could only stand on the sidelines as the gains that had been so painstakingly achieved slowly slipped away.

For months now, the dedicated staff in my office has been working to cobble together a health care "plan" for my patient that includes local free care and drug company charity care, which is taking its bittersweet time to kick in.

As a primary care physician, I consider myself to be the cheapest and best option to improve our state's overall health. If the state cannot afford health care at my level, how can we possibly pay for the heart attack, stroke, dialysis and disability that are so often the outcome when a diabetic patient lacks access to affordable health care? From the front line, in the face of such suffering, I can only say it is very difficult to watch.

Donald Medd, M.D., of Portland is a primary care physician at Maine Medical Partners' Westbrook office.

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