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The Effects of LD 1333

L.D. 1333 would repeal many of Maine's basic health care consumer protections, allow out-of-state insurers to market policies in Maine without a way to enforce those policies and make sure claims are paid, undermine access to quality affordable health care for older Mainers, rural residents, people with pre-existing conditions and small businesses through significant rate hikes based on where you live or your age. Read this report by the independent Maine Economic Policy Center to find out more.

Rate increases.  LD 1333 promises a lot, but it can't deliver on its promises, and in the process a lot of people, especially in rural Maine, will lose the insurance they have because they simply won't be able to afford the price increases. Read more »

Good for Big Pharma, Bad for Maine Seniors

Cuts to seniors' prescription drug help and GOP bills to repeal anti-fraud laws will hike medicine costs and lead to worse health outcomes.

It seems there is an all-out assault on prescription drug programs in Maine Governor LePage's budget as well as in bills pending before the Health and Human Services (HHS) Committee. These proposals certainly will help the bottom line of large pharmaceutical concerns, but they harm over 40,000 seniors who rely on state assistance to purchase prescription drugs, and repeal important pricing protections for consumers and taxpayers.

Its hard to believe that legislators who campaigned for strong financial oversight and against waste would support repealing a law that bans kickbacks and requires rebates be passed through to consumers, but that's exactly what Maine bill LD 1116 would do. Another bill, LD 719,will limit doctor, patient, and government access to independent information on prescription drug effectiveness, costs, and money spent on drug advertising, and make it harder to audit drug company pricing information. Read more »

LePage Exempts Own Pension From Budget Cuts

One of the tough things about writing a newspaper column after having blogged for a while is the distressing lack of hypertext. Words have to stand on their own, rather than being butressed by photos, videos and links to sources.

So I'm going to use this opportunity to provide some linked context to today's Kennebec Journal/Morning Sentinel column on LePage's decision to exempt himself from cutbacks to the pensions of teachers and other public employees, and how the money the state saves from these cutbacks is to be used to reduce taxes for Maine's wealthiest residents.

MRSA Title 2 spells out the governor's pension and other benefits and Title 5 governs other state employees' benefits. They all currently pay the same 7.65% pension contribution. Part S of LePage's budget changes Title 5, but leaves Title 2 alone, which means that LePage's pension contributions will stay the same even as they are increased for other public employees. Title 2 also describes how LePage will be eligible for a pension worth 3/8ths of his salary as soon as he leaves office. Read more »

The Past and Future of Maine's Anti-Poverty Efforts

"If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it can not save the few who are rich."

Fifty years ago today, President John F. Kennedy spoke those words in his inaugural address.

Understanding the moral and economic value to us all in lifting people out of poverty, some of the nation's and Maine's greatest achievements in public policy have been in fighting poverty: Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, etc. Maine Equal Justice does an excellent job of explaining the programs where the state has a major role to play.

It should be no surprise that – because the programs are designed that way – use of income supports and medical assistance by Maine families has increased since the global economic collapse 2 years ago. And directly or indirectly, we all benefit when our neighbors have the resources to participate in the economy and when they have access to treatment that prevents illness. Read more »

Equal Marriage on the Air

For a good overview of each side's arguments in the same-sex marriage debate, check out this podcast of Nicole Witherbee from the Maine Center for Economic Policy discussing the legislation with Sen. Dennis Damon and Betsy Smith of Equality Maine:

...and this interview with Mark Mutty of the Portland Catholic Dioceses on WGAN:

Damon also discusses what led him to submit the bill, the correspondence he's received from his constituents, and the next steps in passing the legislation.

Small Businesses for Universal Health Care

The small businesses that make up the backbone of the American economy desperately need better health care options, and a new report released today by the Main Street Alliance says a large majority support a public option and would even be willing to pay more in taxes to get it.

The report looked at small businesses in 12 states including Maine, and some small businesspeople gathered in Augusta today to launch the report and share their own health care stories.

More video:
Dean Powers of the Maine People's Alliance introduces the report
Nicole Witherbee of the Maine Center for Economic Policy
Sheryl Ostrow, owner of Mallard's Crossing in Bangor

AG Race Heats Up

The Attorney General selection process is getting a bit more attention than normal this year. Three strong candidates are running for the Democratic nomination, and the Maine League of Women Voters and the AARP recently held a debate between the contenders.

For more on the candidates' backgrounds and plans, check out these audio interviews:

Maine Center for Economic Policy Forum (mp3)
WERU/League of Women Voters Forum (mp3)

I'll be talking with the candidates myself over the next few days. Are there any questions you'd like asked?