By Sen. Angus King
I know many people across Maine are concerned about how the Affordable Care Act (ACA), often called Obamacare, will impact them. I was not in the Senate when the new health care law was passed, and I recognize that it is not perfect, but I believe that finding a way to allow more Mainers to access private health insurance is a fundamentally sound goal.
When I was in my 20s I was diagnosed with a rare and aggressive form of skin cancer. At the time I was fortunate to have health insurance through my job and the cancer was caught in time for treatment during a routine physical. That routine physical saved my life and forever ingrained in my mind the importance of having health insurance. While I was fortunate enough to survive my own battle with cancer, there are countless others who weren't so lucky because they didn't have health care. It is simply unconscionable to have 50 million people in this country without health insurance when more than 20,000 people die as a direct result of being uninsured.
With that in mind, I want to lay out some of the opportunities the ACA has created. The biggest opportunity is that more than 144,000 uninsured Mainers will now have access to coverage through the Health Insurance Marketplace which opens Oct. 1. The Health Insurance Marketplace is a new way to find quality private health coverage that best meets your individual needs. Maine families earning less than 400 percent of the federal poverty level could be eligible for subsidies to purchase insurance through the Marketplace.
The basic purpose of the ACA is to help people find and pay for private health insurance; but included in the ACA are many provisions that have already gone into effect and are helping Maine families. More than 9,000 young adults in Maine can now stay on their parents' health insurance plan up to age 26. Maine seniors on Medicare have already saved $21 million on prescription drugs. Mainers with pre-existing conditions can no longer be denied health insurance and there are no longer lifetime limits on benefits. Maine families have received more than $501,240 in rebates from health insurance companies, which averages out to $106 per family. These changes have already had a tremendously positive impact on our economy and our communities.
To help guide folks through the enrollment process, I've provided a list of resources with information about what the ACA means for you and how to find the best insurance option.
Healthcare.gov is the federal government's primary source of information about the ACA.
A good, non-government resource with lots of helpful information is the Web site of the Kaiser Family Foundation: www.kff.org.
To learn more about federal health care reform in Maine contact the Maine Bureau of Insurance at (800) 300-5000.
You can talk to a federal health care expert at the Health Insurance Marketplace Call Center by calling (800) 318-2596.
To connect with a certified assister and learn about new health insurance options through the Maine Insurance Marketplace, visit www.enroll207.com.
2-1-1 Maine is a comprehensive statewide directory of over 8,000 health and human services providers available in Maine. To reach a trained specialist call 2-1-1 toll free.
If you have any further questions please do not hesitate to call my office toll free at (800) 432-1599 or visit my Web site at www.king.senate.gov.
Angus King is the independent U.S. senator from Maine.