Poliquin math on Mainers hit by Trumpcare is really wrong

Rep. Bruce Poliquin

In (finally) telling Maine people his position on the American Health Care Act (AHCA), Rep. Bruce Poliquin claimed, “This affects only the 7 percent of Maine residents who have Obamacare policies.” Now, 7% is a lot of people. It’s about one in thirteen people, over 80,000 Mainers.

But even more, Poliquin’s figure is utterly incorrect. You might call it Fake Math or Alternative Math.

First, it leaves out the 47% of Mainers who get their insurance through an employer.

They are affected because the bill allows employer plans to have lifetime and annual caps on what insurance pays. These caps were prohibited by the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.

According to a 2009, pre-Obamacare study by the Kaiser Family Foundation, just under 60% of Americans with employer coverage had lifetime caps. Before Obamacare prohibited the caps, 105 million Americans had such limits, including 431,000 Mainers. 103,000 of those Mainers were children.

Moreover, per the same 2009 Kaiser study, even more employee plans — 80% — had annual caps.

A family with a baby in pediatric intensive care could hit the caps. If that child needed a series of surgeries or ongoing care, the expenses would go up and up but coverage wouldn’t cover a penny more.

One in ten people with cancer used to hit the caps. Some plans applied the cap to radiology or would only cover a certain number of medical visits. Given the high rates of cancer in Maine documented by the CDC (and shown in the map below), that’s a real problem for Maine people.

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 2013 data. https://www.dropbox.com/s/n7na7cagzx7o4i9/Screenshot%202017-05-07%2012.27.36.png?dl=0

And while children could hit the caps, older folks are more likely to do so. Given that ME-2 has the older population in Maine, the oldest state, a lot of Poliquin’s constituents would be affected.

This, by itself, means that far more than 7% of Mainers would be hit by the House bill Poliquin voted for.

Second, the AHCA, also known as Trumpcare, includes massive cuts in Medicaid, with those funds redirected to tax cuts for the richest Americans.

In 2015, 23% of Mainers benefitted from Medicaid. Since Medicaid funds half of all nursing home care, that includes seniors also receiving Medicare. 47% of Maine children receive Medicaid.

Medicaid also provides funds for special education. As the NY Times explains:

For nearly 30 years, Medicaid has helped school systems cover costs for special education services and equipment, from physical therapists to feeding tubes. The money is also used to provide preventive care, such as vision and hearing screenings, for other Medicaid-eligible children.

It’s unclear now how big a Medicaid cut Maine would take, but whatever its size, it would drive the proportion affected by Trumpcare above Poliquin’s 7% figure. Besides current Medicaid beneficiaries, the AHCA would hit those who could gain it should Maine voters pass the referendum to expand Medicaid.

Third, Poliquin doesn’t acknowledge the bill’s impact on veterans.

To ensure that veterans could get care outside of the Veterans Administration, they can now get their veterans’ coverage through the exchanges.

But an amendment added to the bill took away that option, affecting about 7 million veterans altogether.

Every Maine veteran who used this option would lose it. They’re included in the 7% but Poliquin doesn’t seem to recognize how this option helped them and why it’s a problem to get rid of it.

How Trumpcare affects people with preexisting conditions

Some are people who would hit annual or lifetime caps that Obamacare had ended.

Others are disabled and elderly people on Medicaid.

And still others are veterans with service-related injuries who chose to get their insurance coverage through the exchanges.

States could allow insurance companies to raise premiums based on preexisting conditions. We don’t know what Maine will do.

The bill allows for higher premiums for older people, who more likely to have preexisting conditions. “[O]lder Mainers in rural areas could see their premiums increase up to seven times what they’re currently paying under Obamacare, going from about $200 to $300 per month to about $1,300 per month, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.”

President Trump’s Secretary of Health and Human Services,Tom Price, has said “pricing for what an individual’s health status is” would be appropriate. As Sen. Susan Collins noted on Sunday, “If the coverage is unaffordable, that doesn’t do any good for a child who has juvenile diabetes and is going to have that her entire life.”

Without the protections and coverage of Obamacare, all of them would be hit and hurt by the bill Poliquin voted for.

These are far more than 7% of Maine people.

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.