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


Blankenship is still paying hospital bills and trying to rebuild her credit more than two years after her husband, Rocky D'Andrea, died from cancer in March 2010. Her husband's health insurance coverage was cut off when he hit a $250,000 lifetime cap on claims, leaving Blankenship with about $60,000 worth of bills she could not pay.

Before he died, Rocky D'Andrea became an advocate for health care reform, testifying in Augusta in a favor of a successful bill to ban lifetime insurance caps in Maine. The federal Affordable Care Act, signed a day after D'Andrea died, banned lifetime caps nationwide.

Blankenship was publicly thanked by President Obama when he came to Portland days later.

"It felt so good to know that other people wouldn't have to go through what we went through," she said.

Blankenship has since been working with the Maine Parent Federation on health insurance issues, and she was afraid the Supreme Court might strike down the law.

"I was very worried that people who are now receiving care and could take a deep breath and focus on their families would be reverted right back to the financial disaster that I went through. I was sick to death that would happen," she said. "I'm just so pleased."

Political candidates take partisan lines on court decision

Mainers probably haven't heard the end of the political posturing over the controversial health care law.

Candidates for Maine's U.S. Senate and two U.S. House seats are likely to continue debating the perceived merits and pitfalls of the controversial law. And whoever represents Maine in Congress next year might vote on attempts to repeal the law, depending on which party controls the White House and the two chambers after the November election.

As with Maine's sitting representatives and senators, candidates' reactions to the court ruling fell along partisan lines.

Secretary of State Charlie Summers, Senate President Kevin Raye and Sen. Jonathan Courtney -- all Republicans -- said they were disappointed with the ruling. Summers is running for retiring Olympia Snowe's U.S. Senate seat, Raye is challenging Mike Michaud in Maine's 2nd Ddistrict, and Courtney, a state senator from Springvale, is running against Chellie Pingree in the 1st District.

Pingree is married to S. Donald Sussman, majority share owner of the Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram.

"Today's Supreme Court decision makes this Senate race more critical than ever," Summers said in a statement. "The court's ruling makes it clear that the president's plan amounts to a massive tax increase. Maine people need a senator who will provide a voice for businesses and families as we address this critical issue."

Raye called on Congress to work on bipartisan reforms that would allow individuals to purchase health insurance across state lines and enable small businesses to pool together to buy insurance at lower rates, among others.

Courtney said he was confident that it would be a campaign issue and said he planned to ask "people on Main Street" for their ideas on ways to move forward with health care reform.

"I think you have to repeal it and start over ... and do it in a bipartisan way," Courtney said.

Sen. Cynthia Dill, the Cape Elizabeth Democrat seeking Snowe's seat, said the Affordable Care Act is already lowering prescription and health care costs for seniors and prohibiting insurance companies from denying coverage due pre-existing conditions. But Dill said other reforms are needed and repeated her calls for a so-called "single-payer" health care system.

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