Opinion

U.S. Sen. Collins killed reforms to Obamacare

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Maine’s senior senator in Washington, D.C. single-handedly killed the chance to reform Obamacare and provide hard-working Mainers with affordable and effective health insurance.

U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine claimed the latest efforts to reform Obamacare in the Graham-Cassidy bill would cut Medicaid for our most vulnerable citizens. She said it would hurt people with pre-existing conditions. She believed it would result in higher premiums and reduced coverage for Americans.

But no one who is now on Medicaid would be kicked off. Medicaid was originally designed for impoverished children, the elderly and the disabled. However, Medicaid expansion under Obamacare gave free health care to able-bodied adults who should be working and contributing to the cost of their own health insurance.

Graham-Cassidy would have reformed Medicaid — it would not have harmed our most vulnerable citizens. In fact, it was the first step in returning Medicaid to the safety net it was designed to be.

Furthermore, Graham-Cassidy would have had no negative impact on benefits for disabled children and low-income seniors. They would continue to get the robust set of benefits they have always received.

Keeping Obamacare in place will create the same disaster that happened when Maine expanded Medicaid in 2002. We ended up with a $750 million debt to our hospitals, massive budget shortfalls, a waitlist for people with intellectual disabilities and low reimbursement rates for nursing homes. If the Senate does not act, it’s déjà vu all over again.

U.S. Sen. Collins also said she was worried about Americans with pre-existing conditions. But Maine has had a strong law mandating coverage of those with pre-existing conditions since the late 1980s.

A White House National Economic Council Analysis determined that Graham-Cassidy would give Maine significant flexibility under the provision to allow the program to grow if needed, while simultaneously providing the flexibility to truly manage our program.

Graham-Cassidy would have given states the authority to develop their own Medicaid programs that would best serve the people of their state. Maine has different needs than Texas or California, and the Graham-Cassidy bill recognized that.

Finally, U.S. Sen. Collins ignored the fact that Obamacare is hurting Mainers who can least afford it. According to the IRS, the individual mandate under Obamacare is a regressive tax on low- and middle-income Mainers.

In 2015, more than 34,000 Maine families chose to pay $15 million in fines, rather than pay for Obamacare’s exorbitant premiums and coverage that did not meet the needs of their families.

Under Graham-Cassidy, Maine would get 43 percent more federal healthcare funding — that’s nearly $1.5 billion by 2026. The bill would have eliminated the individual and employer mandates, which would help these working families and job creators right here in Maine.

Instead of seeking national headlines, U.S. Sen. Collins and U.S. Sen. King, I-Maine should have worked on behalf of the Maine people who elected them.

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