Maine voters approved the expansion of MaineCare by a margin of nearly two to one, an insurance that will cover almost 70,000 of our working poor. This was the right thing to do for a number of reasons. MaineCare will offer regular physician’s visits, preventative care and vaccinations for those who simply cannot afford it as well as addiction treatment and counseling. Additionally, Medicaid expansion will bring in almost $500 million a year from the federal government which will help create roughly six thousand new jobs. This will have a stabilizing effect on our workforce, our hospitals and clinics and the people that benefit from these services.
We’ve all watched our healthcare costs rise. As a business owner, I have paid for my family’s health insurance for the last quarter century and each year, on the anniversary of my policy’s renewal, we sit down at the dining room table and lay out all the options for the upcoming year. Invariably the rates go up by double digits and the benefits go down. It’s staggering. Never did I think that our monthly mortgage check would be eclipsed by our health insurance costs, but that happened about a decade ago. And it continues to climb. Today we are moving through an unnecessarily turbulent time in American health care. The Affordable Care Act was not perfect, but it was a work in progress and in my experience, it worked pretty well. Personally, our rate increases slowed and our deductibles remained constant. Now it is being dismantled piece by piece. In December, 2017 Congress eliminated the penalty for not having health insurance, a mandate that helped stabilize the ACA’s pricing structure. A few months later, President Trump issued new rules that allowed people to purchase cheaper insurance with bare bones coverage, again an erosion of the ACA. There have been two additional cuts since then, but curiously the ACA is still working. There are a number of ways to make healthcare more affordable in Maine. It’s going to require collaboration with businesses, healthcare providers, hospitals, nursing homes, community leaders and patient advocates - basically all the spokes of the wheel. From there, the goal will be to increase coverage to all Mainers which in turn will lower costs. The ACA encourages innovation, streamlining of services, and access to cost-effective services. We must take advantage of all of these offerings.