Conservative Maine group accidentally shows success of pre-LePage health care policy

The Maine Heritage Policy Center, a conservative advocacy group, put out a paper today arguing that Maine shouldn’t expand Medicaid under Obamacare.

One of its core arguments is:

Maine’s uninsured rate is nearly the same as it was in 1999, while government-run health care enrollment has more than doubled in the same time period, from 10 percent of those insured to more than 23 percent in 2010.

And the MHPC presents this chart:

As you can see, between 1999 and 2010, the percentage of Maine people without insurance did indeed change little, with 1% more Mainers having insurance at the end of this period than at the start.

What the group doesn’t tell you is that nationally this is not what happened.  Take a look at the national data from part of this period.

Source: Kaiser Family Foundation

Lots of people lost coverage, due to changes in the operations and costs of private insurance and the economic downturn.

Nationally, the ranks of the uninsured rose, up to 22% among nonelderly adults in 2010 — even as Maine’s dropped a bit — to 11% among nonelderly adults.

Moreover, as a recent study in the New England Journal of Medicine found, pointing to a policy adopted in Maine before the election of Governor LePage (as well as in several other states):

State Medicaid expansions to cover low-income adults were significantly associated with reduced mortality as well as improved coverage, access to care and self-reported health.

More people got preventative care. More illnesses were detected earlier. Lives were saved. Medical bankruptcies were averted.

Maine’s largely stable rate of insurance coverage is really quite amazing, given the national trends. One might not see this without looking at the larger, national context, but when that’s included — it’s rather striking.

All this would seem to be a policy success, if the goal is a population with health coverage and health care.

By the way, as a campaign spokesperson for the Romney campaign noted today, Romneycare has saved lives.  This acknowledgement of policy success upset a number of Governor Romney’s supporters.

Amy Fried

About Amy Fried

Amy Fried loves Maine's sense of community and the wonderful mix of culture and outdoor recreation. She loves politics in three ways: as an analytical political scientist, a devoted political junkie and a citizen who believes politics matters for people's lives. Fried is Professor of Political Science at the University of Maine. Her views do not reflect those of her employer or any group to which she belongs.