About 36,000 Mainers lost their MaineCare insurance on Jan. 1, and with it lost their access to affordable visits to the doctor and treatments for their conditions.

I have been a respiratory therapist for 21 years. I work every day with people who struggle to breathe. I have no doubt that many of the people who lost coverage have lung disease. Without regular care many of them will end up in hospital emergency rooms.

Some legislators think these individuals and families should be referred to the insurance marketplaces to purchase coverage using federal subsidies. But 10,000 of the former MaineCare patients have incomes below the poverty level, which means that they’re not eligible for any subsidies in the insurance marketplaces. Why? Because when Congress passed the health care law, they assumed these very low-income people would be covered by the federally supported state Medicaid programs. The Supreme Court handed the choice back to states, however, and the Maine Legislature and governor have seen fit to leave $1 billion in federal funds untouched.

Some legislators suggest that insurance can be purchased by those with a $12,000 salary. Exactly what insurance company is that?

The economy in Maine is still very hard for many families. It is shortsighted to let available federal funding sit on the table in Washington while tens of thousands in Maine lose their insurance, Thousands of these people cannot purchase any coverage because they don’t qualify for subsidies and the annual cost is too high.

Diane HaskellPalermo

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