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Health care debate comes to Maine

 This just (kind of, Friday afternoon) in from the US Department of Health and Human Services, on why Maine needs health care reform:

Congress and the President are working to enact health care reform legislation that protects what works about health care and fixes what is broken. Mainers know that inaction is not an option. Sky-rocketing health care costs are hurting families, forcing businesses to cut or drop health benefits, and straining state budgets. Mainers are paying more for less. Families and businesses in Maine deserve better.

MAINERS CAN’T AFFORD THE STATUS QUO

  • Roughly 783,000 people in Maine get health insurance on the job1, where family premiums average $14,304, about the annual earning of a full-time minimum wage job.2
  • Since 2000 alone, average family premiums have increased by 105 percent in Maine.3
  • Household budgets are strained by high costs: 15 percent of middle-income Maine families spend more than 10 percent of their income on health care.4
  • High costs block access to care: 10 percent of people in Maine report not visiting a doctor due to high costs.5
  • Maine businesses and families shoulder a hidden health tax of roughly $800 per year on premiums as a direct result of subsidizing the costs of the uninsured.6

AFFORDABLE HEALTH COVERAGE IS INCREASINGLY OUT OF REACH IN MAINE

  • 9 percent of people in Maine are uninsured, and 75 percent of them are in families with at least one full-time worker.7
  • The percent of Mainers with employer coverage is declining: from 63 to 60 percent between 2000 and 2007.8
  • While small businesses make up 79 percent of Maine businesses,9 only 45 percent of them offered health coverage benefits in 2006.10
  • Choice of health insurance is limited in Maine. WellPoint Inc. (BCBS) alone constitutes 78 percent of the health insurance market share in Maine, with the top two insurance providers accounting for 88 percent.11
  • Choice is even more limited for people with pre-existing conditions. In Maine, premiums can vary based on a modified community rating structure, and coverage can exclude pre-existing conditions in some cases.  

MAINERS NEED HIGHER QUALITY, GREATER VALUE, AND MORE PREVENTATIVE CARE

  • The overall quality of care in Maine is rated as “Average.”12
  • Preventative measures that could keep Mainers healthier and out of the hospital are deficient, leading to problems across the age spectrum:
    • 13 percent of children in Maine are obese.13
    • 15 percent of women over the age of 50 in Maine have not received a mammogram in the past two years.
    • 27 percent of men over the age of 50 in Maine have never had a colorectal cancer screening.
    • 77 percent of adults over the age of 65 in Maine have received a flu vaccine in the past year.14

The need for reform in Maine and across the country is clear. Maine families simply can’t afford the status quo and deserve better. President Obama is committed to working with Congress to pass health reform this year that reduces costs for families, businesses and government; protects people’s choice of doctors, hospitals and health plans; and assures affordable, quality health care for all Americans.

The same day, I recieved an email from Doctors for America, denouncing a Conservatives for Patients' Rights TV ad that's currently airing in Maine (aimed, of course, at Maine's swing-vote senators, who could play a big role in the healthcare debate [seems like every time I mention these two recently I mention how important their votes are]). The ad (you can watch their ads on YouTube) claims that healthcare reform will add one more layer of bureaucracy to our already-miserable healthcare system. The DFA release counters: “Health reform, like a sound public option, will make sure that Americans are able to get the health care they desperately need. This scare tactic is a lie, the plans on the table will make sure more people can get the preventative care and long term treatment they need for a better quality of life,” said Dr. Vivek Murthy, President of Doctors for America.

 

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