Looking down on working people in Medicaid gap shows disdain, misinformation

With hundreds of people rallying for Medicaid expansion in Augusta, you’d hope that people would listen to their stories and understand their circumstances.

Yet a former GOP representative and former Vice-Chair of the Maine Republican party was disdainful of these folks, and did not seem to realize that people who would be covered by a Medicaid expansion work for a living.

 

Former GOP Vice-Chair Beth O'Connor l Photo by Lisa Haberzettl | BDN

Former GOP Vice-Chair Beth O’Connor l Photo by Lisa Haberzettl | BDN

Beth O’Connor, now chairwoman of Maine Taxpayers United, said:

“Frankly it’s a disincentive. People won’t get off their butts and try to get a job.”

 

But reports about people in the Medicaid gap show that these folks already have jobs and businesses, so are already working.

Sgt. Robert Elliot of the Capitol Police force tries to organize hundreds of people headed through security screening at the State House in Augusta Wednesday before a Maine People's Alliance rally urging legislators to make accepting federal Medicaid funds and expanding health care their top priority. Image: Troy R. Bennett l BDN

Sgt. Robert Elliot of the Capitol Police force tries to organize hundreds of people headed through security screening at the State House in Augusta Wednesday before a Maine People’s Alliance rally urging legislators to make accepting federal Medicaid funds and expanding health care their top priority. Image: Troy R. Bennett l BDN

For example, look at comments from two folks who spoke at the Statehouse, as reported by the Bangor Daily News:

One of those speakers was Gail MacLean, who boards horses at her stable in Gray. MacLean said she has been on Medicaid for three years, but lost her coverage on Dec. 31 as a result of the state not expanding the program, known as MaineCare in the state.

“Now I’m tip-toeing around the farm, hoping I don’t hurt myself,” she said. “My fear is that if something happens, I’ll lose what I’ve worked so hard for.”

Another man, Tom Bennie, a farmer and handyman from Whitefield, said MaineCare paid for his full hip replacement in 2010, and helped his wife recover from a heart attack shortly thereafter.

“If it weren’t for MaineCare, I wouldn’t be able to stand here today,” he said. “My health is all I have. That’s the most important thing. MaineCare gave me a sense of security.”

And here are two other other people interviewed by the Portland Press Herald:

Pete Miller, who lives in Ellsworth and is a prep cook at Pat’s Pizza, said he cannot afford to buy private health insurance. He said he has a blood clotting issue that forces him to have his blood drawn regularly and to take blood-thinning medication. He had been on Medicaid – known here as MaineCare – for several years before losing his coverage at the end of December. Asked how much it would cost him to buy private insurance, Miller said, “More than I can make.”

Joseph Kubetz, of Portland, said that he’s in relatively good health, but he doesn’t have insurance. He recently started a new landscaping business and he worries that one accident or health setback could sink his business.

And here’s an Obamacare navigator, talking about working with people who fall in the coverage gap

I’ve seen dozens of people find good policies that they can afford, and many are getting health insurance for the first time in their adult lives. Much to my distress, I am also meeting people who are too “wealthy” for Medicaid (MaineCare) yet too “poor” for Obamacare, leaving them “in the gap” with no hope of obtaining health insurance. The people I’ve seen are self-employed, many of them farmers, craftspeople or those with low paying jobs. They are hard working and would suffer immensely if their health were compromised.

O’Connor’s admonition for these people to “get off their butts” shows disdain and a lack of knowledge

Folks in the Medicaid gap — without coverage because Gov. LePage has refused to expand — are working.

They are taxpayers who are trying their best to make a living for themselves.

But their income is too low to qualify for federal financial aid to buy insurance. That’s right. If they made more money, they could get subsidies to get insurance through the marketplace.

Under the ACA as written, they’d get coverage via expanding Medicaid. But then the Supreme Court let states decide whether to expand. An increasing number of Republicans, including conservatives like Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer and Ohio Gov. John Kasich, have decided to expand — but LePage says no.

So now numerous low-income working people are in the coverage gap.

O’Connor doesn’t seem to have talked to any of these folks or else she’d know their circumstances.

Instead, her remarks reveal disdain for these working people and a lack of knowledge about Medicaid expansion and about their lives.

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.