AUGUSTA — Sen. Susan Collins cast a courageous vote this summer to preserve the Affordable Care Act. This was an act of political leadership, and a vote for preserving affordable health care for Mainers. The amount of pressure she endured from her Republican colleagues, I can only imagine.

Which is why we were disappointed by her vote in favor of the Republican tax package this week. Even with the concessions she received, we feel that the package does far more harm than good.

There’s a reason that this bill is so dramatically unpopular: It repeals health care in order to pay for tax cuts for corporations and the wealthiest 1 percent. It will hit low-income, disabled, elderly and middle-class Mainers hard. Up to 50,000 Mainers are expected to lose coverage as a result of this bill, and thousands more will see premiums rise by over $2,000. Older Mainers will be hit with an age tax climbing as high as $1,748. The bill will set in motion a devastating $120 million cut to Maine Medicare funds.

In fairness to the senator, she did what she could to make sure that other bills she supported would mitigate the fallout from gutting the health care markets. The reality is that these patchwork solutions will only soften the blow, not stop it. Repealing the individual mandate will still destabilize the health care market, causing tens of thousands of Mainers to lose their coverage and even more to see their premiums increase.

Of course, this won’t occur in one fell swoop. It takes time to destabilize a market. But the fact still remains that, even if the “fix” bills she is supporting work as well as she hopes, they will only begin to contain the damage that Congress willingly chose to inflict. These patchwork policy Band-Aids will not make anybody better off: At best, they’ll make sure you’re only somewhat worse off in 2018 because of what Congress has done. The timeline to pass these fixes continues to grow, and leadership has backed away from promises to move them.

And now, the additional support for the health care system that Sen. Collins has worked hard to secure won’t be considered until next year. Should congressional leaders stay true to their word and bring the additional health care reform to a vote next year, there is serious doubt whether or not the updates can pass both chambers of Congress. I’ll say it again: These Band-Aids are only a patchwork and serve only to soften the outcome of passing the tax package, rather than substantively improve health care for Mainers and Americans.

Mainers have repeatedly made clear what their priorities are, evidenced by the most recent and resounding referendum to expand Medicaid. Hart Research pollsters have found that a dismal 22 percent of the state approves of this tax bill.

Voting for health care repeal is a setup to do even greater harm to Mainers. Congressional leaders have already signaled that Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid are next on the chopping block, something that Mainers certainly will not tolerate. Conservative estimates say that this tax bill will increase the deficit by $1.5 trillion. The next step will be for congressional leadership to claim the deficit is out of control and point to the programs Mainers rely on – Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid – as the reason. It’s already happening.

But let’s be clear: The enormous deficit the Republicans just created is because of their giveaways to corporations and the wealthy, not because of Mainers’ Social Security and Medicare. Being the oldest state in the nation, Maine will be hit hard if they follow through on their plans to gut these programs next.

We applaud the senator for doing her best to convince her colleagues that they must now pass other bills to contain the damage that’s already been done. We only wish that she, and the rest of Congress, had chosen the far easier fix: not to break our health care system in the first place.