Rep. Chellie Pingree took to the House floor Wednesday to tell the story of a Cape Elizabeth man who said he will die if the Affordable Care Act is repealed.

Pingree, a Democrat representing Maine’s 1st District, spoke as a showdown over an ACA replacement loomed in the House of Representatives. A full House vote to undo former President Barack Obama’s signature domestic legislation is slated for Thursday evening.

But the replacement bill – House Speaker Paul Ryan’s American Health Care Act – has been attacked by liberals, moderates and conservatives, and it’s uncertain whether it will pass the House. Even if it does, the bill could fail in a closely divided Senate, where Maine Sen. Susan Collins, a moderate Republican, has said she won’t support it in its current form. Sen. Angus King of Maine, an independent, has remained steadfastly opposed.

Rep. Bruce Poliquin, R-2nd District, has refused to say how he’d vote, although he touted his efforts to include more funds for older, rural Mainers who would be socked with premium increases under the Ryan bill. In early March, Poliquin had praised the House bill for repealing Obamacare and said it would provide “much-needed health insurance relief.”

Poliquin spokesman Brendan Conley said that the congressman was “continuing to carefully study and push for changes in this health care relief proposal.”

The Ryan bill, supported by President Trump, would result in 24 million fewer Americans being insured over the next decade while at the same time cutting taxes for the wealthy, according to a Congressional Budget Office analysis. The CBO projected that the number of uninsured people would jump 14 million after the first year of the House bill.


About 80,000 Mainers and 20 million Americans have insurance through the ACA, either through the expansion of Medicaid or through the ACA marketplace, where individuals can purchase subsidized insurance.

Pingree highlighted Cape Elizabeth’s Ed Saxby, who says he relies on the ACA to stay alive.

Pingree pointed to a giant photo of Saxby speaking at a health care town hall Pingree hosted Sunday in Portland.

Saxby is quoted as saying, “If the ACA is repealed without an adequate replacement, I will lose access to my health care … and I will die. I will die. I have Stage 4 cancer.”

Pingree, in her remarks on the House floor Wednesday, said people like Saxby could be in grave danger if the Republican bill becomes law.

“Ed’s wife, Jill, asked me if those who are championing Trumpcare would be willing to trade places with those whom it will harm,” Pingree said. “I pose that question to all my Republican colleagues today. If you can’t answer it in the affirmative, you should not be voting for this terrible bill.”


Saxby, 60, said he was “flabbergasted” to be included in Pingree’s House speech, but he’s glad to weigh in on the future of the ACA.

“It’s important and personal to me, but it’s relevant to lots of people,” he said Wednesday night. “There’s millions of people in my situation.”

Saxby, an attorney, said he and his wife started an independent practice in 2013 in part because they could purchase affordable insurance through the ACA. Before the ACA, the self-employed would often have to pay more for insurance or buy insurance with poor benefits. In 2015, he found out he had non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and he has since had to give up his practice due to his illness.

Saxby said after initial treatments didn’t work as well as his doctors had hoped, he enrolled in a clinical trial in Boston for cancer treatment. He said if he didn’t have insurance, he wouldn’t have been allowed to participate. He said having ACA insurance at the time of his illness has literally saved his life.

According to a Press Herald analysis of data from the Congressional Budget Office and the Kaiser Family Foundation, a 60-year-old with a $30,000 income who currently has ACA insurance would see premiums go up by as much as seven times under the House Republican bill compared to what they would pay if the ACA remains.

In a last-minute change, the House bill included $85 billion spread out over seven years to help defray health care costs for Americans in the 50-64 age bracket with ACA insurance.


An analysis released Wednesday afternoon by the Center for American Progress, a left-leaning Washington, D.C., think tank, estimates that even with the $85 billion infusion, health care costs for the average person in the 50-64 age bracket purchasing insurance under the Ryan bill would be $8,510 per year higher than if the ACA remained in place. About 25,000 Mainers with ACA insurance fall into the 55-64 age bracket.

The Kaiser Family Foundation estimates that the $85 billion would make premiums under the Ryan bill slightly less expensive for older Americans, but still would be much more pricey compared to the ACA. For instance, a 60-year-old in Aroostook County earning $30,000, instead of paying $1,300 in monthly premiums, would pay about $1,150 once the $85 billion is added to the House Republican plan, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. In comparison, ACA premiums for that same 60-year-old would be about $200.

Collins, a key moderate vote in the Senate, has objected to the soaring health care costs for older Mainers under the Ryan bill, as well as a provision in the bill that would defund Planned Parenthood.

Other amendments to the Ryan bill would further cut Medicaid and add work requirements to Medicaid.

Emily Brostek, executive director of Consumers for Affordable Health Care, an Augusta-based health advocacy group, said the amendments to the Ryan bill would not meaningfully change the affordability of premiums. Under the Ryan bill, in many cases premiums would still eat up 30 percent or more of total income.

“The amendments don’t do anything to address our concerns about the negative impact this would have on older Mainers,” Brostek said.

Joe Lawlor can be contacted at 791-6376 or at:

Twitter: @joelawlorph

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