June 30, 2012

Decision's impact stretches across Maine

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Opponents of President Obama’s health care plan, tea party activists Jenny Beth Martin of Atlanta, rear left, Keli Carender of Seattle and David Walls-Kaufman of Washington, get in a heated discussion with health care supporter Michael Paysour of Washington in front of the Supreme Court after the ruling on the Affordable Care Act was announced upholding most of the plan.

Washington Post photo by Katherine Frey

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9,000: The estimated number of young adults who now have health insurance due to a provision in the law that requires insurance companies to provide coverage to young adults up to age 26 on their parents’ health insurance plans.

187,251: The number of people with Medicare who in 2011 received free preventive services – such as mammograms, colonoscopies and annual wellness visits with their doctor.

$11 million: The amount that people on Medicare have saved on prescription drugs since the law was enacted.

$2,579,922: The total value of rebates that will go to 5,600 families with private health insurance this summer due to a provision in the health care law that requires insurance companies to spend at least 80 percent of premium dollars on health care and quality improvements instead of overhead, executive salaries or marketing.

$463: The average rebate to each family.

41: The number of previously uninsured residents of Maine who as of April 2012 were locked out of the coverage system because of a pre-existing condition and are now insured through a new plan for such people created under the new health reform law.

Source: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services


"This presents burdens and challenges for all small businesses, especially the mandate for larger small businesses to provide health care," said David Clough, director of the Maine chapter of the National Federation of Independent Business. "We've been trying to recover jobs since the worst recession since the 1930s. The new requirements could slow down job recovery and stunt growth."

For young patient on parents' plan, a feeling of relief

The Drew family of Scarborough watched television coverage of the ruling from Ashley Drew's hospital room in Boston.

"We were pleased. It was a big relief," said Tom Drew, Ashley's father.

Ashley Drew is one of an estimated 9,000 young adults in Maine who now have health insurance due to a provision in the law that requires insurance companies to provide coverage to young adults up to age 26 on their parents' health insurance plans. The coverage for adult children has become one of the most popular provisions of the act, and might have survived even if the rest of the law did not.

Three of the five companies that offer insurance in Maine had already pledged to continue offering coverage to young adults up to age 26, regardless of the Supreme Court decision.

Now, it remains a federal law.

The provision was a life-saver, maybe literally, for Ashley Drew, her parents said.

Drew was born with cystic fibrosis, a genetic condition that leads to life-threatening lung infections. Drew's condition worsened in her 20s as she worked toward a master's degree in music education at the University of Maine in Orono.

She was repeatedly hospitalized, left school and was on a waiting list for new lungs. She turned 25 while she was waiting, but the federal law ensured that she could stay on her parent's insurance. Drew finally got her lungs June 8 and continues what will be a long recovery.

"She has insurance now until she turns 26 (in August). Then we've got options," Tom Drew said.

The family has options because the law prevents insurance companies from turning down people with pre-existing conditions, he said. Also, the federal law, along with state law, prevents lifetime limits on insurance claims.

When Ashley Drew was waiting for her transplants, she was featured in a video posted online by the Obama administration talking about how the Affordable Care Act helped her family and took away the stress of possibly losing insurance coverage and having to pay for the expensive operation and care.

While she was not comfortable enough to comment for this story, her father said, the news Thursday morning put a smile on her face.

"It takes a lot of worry out moving forward. It gives us options," Tom Drew said. "When you're going through all the things that she's going through, the last thing you need to worry about is 'Am I going to lose my insurance coverage?"'

'Oh, my God, that makes me almost want to cry'

Theresa Blankenship of Limerick was waiting for the Supreme Court decision Thursday morning when the tension became too much. She left the television and went downstairs to do laundry.

"Oh, my God, that makes me almost want to cry," she said, when told of the decision. "I was so worried that all of the work that we had done and all of the effort that we had put in had been for naught. All of the dedication that Rocky put into this. I'm beyond words. I am beyond words."

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