Maine State Senator Joins the Healthcare Fray With a Bill of His Own
This week, President Trump’s administration has been pushing hard to get support for the repeal of Obamacare. The President’s goal is to replace the Affordable Care Act as quickly as possible and is supporting a specific bill, The American Health Care Act of 2017 (H.R. 1628). You can see the actual text of the bill in the PDF here, and decide for yourself if it is better or worse for your family and business than what it proposes to replace. While it is dense reading, you can see on pages 48-54 some of the ways people would be affected by President Trump’s bill; you can see too that it caps Federal expenditures at $15 billion a year, then brings the capped number down to ten billion a year. And you can see that it amends the Social Security Act.
Many Americans are excited and hopeful about this proposed bill, wanting a reform of Obama’s Affordable Care act. These Americans also feel that Obamacare penalized small business owners: USA Today ran an opinion piece, for instance, noting how hard Obamacare had been on these business owners. Others see the issue differently; many are afraid that the loss of Obamacare means that they will lose the health coverage upon which they rely now.
We are in a time of a great deal of State-level responses to Federal legislative issues. In such a high-stakes situation as this health care fight, the state of Maine has proposed a bill that would prevent Maine citizens from depending upon Federal healthcare, and therefore allow them to receive coverage, no matter what their political views may be, or what happens in Congress.
This bill, sponsored by Maine State Senator Thomas Saviello (R-ME), is called “An Act to Protect and Improve the Health of Maine Citizens and the Economy of Maine.” Sen. Saviello’s bill provides state funding to cover the health care needs of Maine citizens whose income is at the poverty line, or up to 33 per cent above it, in the event that the US Federal government withdraws its current health care funding. For a single person, the bill would cover you if you make up to $16,040 a year or less; a family of four would be covered in Maine up to an annual income of $32,718. The bill instructs Maine’s Department of Health and Human Services to work with health insurance organizations to secure as much savings as possible, while still providing Maine citizens with access to high-quality medical services.
Healthcare coverage is a big concern for many of Maine’s citizens — as is saving the State money. The bill reports that currently, seventy-four thousand Mainers are “at risk of losing access to affordable health care due to actions being considered by Congress.” In addition, cancer, heart disease, and stroke — illnesses that are preventable, so long as individuals can afford expensive treatments and preventive care — are some of the leading causes of death in Maine. If the citizens of the state had affordable health care coverage, the bill argues, they would be able to protect themselves better from these deadly diseases.
This bill, unlike many other healthcare initiatives that are currently being proposed on a State or Federal level, isn’t just claiming to offer reasonable coverage for diseases or conditions that people already have. It adds a element, unusual in such bills currently, of reducing health care costs overall by seeking to increase the overall wellness of the State’s citizens. For example, this bill provides positive incentives to individuals who participate in “wellness initiatives.” These are programs to help the individual manage, or reduce the risk factors of, his or her mental health; diabetes; obesity; or substance use disorder.
Are addressing these conditions relevant to Mainers’ health? You decide. In Maine 25,000 to 35,000 Mainers who were seeking drug treatment last year were unable to get it, according to the US Department of Health and Human Services Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration. The rate of adult obesity in Maine is 30 per cent, and for children 10-17, as of 2015, the obesity rate was 12.5%. In 2010, there were 120,878 cases of diabetes in Maine; Maine is projected to have 192,680 by 2030 (The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, “The State of Obesity.org”, part of the Trust for America’s Health.) The bill would also reward, in ways that are unspecified, citizens who get annual checkups, or who do seek out preventative exams such as Pap smears and diabetes testing.
And to gauge if the bill is doing its job, the bill proposes that the Department of Health and Human Services would be required to create a monthly report on the health of Mainers, and on the overall economic wellbeing of their citizens, as well as on the state’s expenditures for health care. The report would identify if there are savings to the State brought about by keeping Mainers healthier through rewarding preventive exams, lifestyle changes and care.
The bill, if it passes, would be funded by the state of Maine, but it encourages the Department of Health and Human Services to apply for private additional private foundation grants and Federal waivers to pay the costs of the program.
What do you think? Is this bill a good way to boost the general health and wellbeing of Mainers, while saving money? Or is it an unnecessary expense in a time of belt-tightening, introduced even before cuts in health coverage are a reality? Have your say. Use the BillCam to let State Senator Saviello, your own State representatives and Senators, and your Congresspeople, know how you feel about this important issue.