Health care coverage in Maine

To the Editor:

The Affordable Care Act was signed into law six years ago this spring. The uninsured rate is now 11.9 percent, the lowest ever recorded. Approximately 17 million more Americans have health insurance today than before the law was passed.

Hospitals across the nation have saved tens of billions of dollars on uncompensated care.

Despite this progress, more than 5 million Americans remain unable to access health insurance because they fall into the “coverage gap.” These individuals make too much income to qualify for Medicaid, but too little to be eligible for the tax credits that make private health insurance affordable.

While 80 percent of this group lives with incomes below the Federal Poverty Level, the vast majority of them have at least one full-time worker in their family. Nearly one-third of these households carry medical debt, the primary cause of bankruptcy in the nation.

Everyone stuck in the “coverage gap” lives in the 18 states that have refused to expand Medicaid. That includes Maine. Around 70 percent of low-income Mainers could benefit.

It’s clear the Affordable Care Act has made a positive difference. But challenges remain. A minority of states have stubbornly chosen to leave hard-working residents without access to health care. Those elected leaders have sacrificed the health of their constituents in pursuit of individual political goals.

Legislation was under consideration in Maine to expand health care access. It passed both the House and Senate in April but was vetoed by Gov. Paul LePage. It was the sixth time he opposed bringing wider access to affordable health care to the people of his state.

People in Maine should take this opportunity to tell their representatives and the governor where they stand. People need to work together to make the “coverage gap” a thing of the past.

Johnathan Hladik

Center for Rural Affairs

Lyons, Neb.

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