Health care survey results misrepresented

By John Picchiotti, Special to the BDN
Posted Sept. 16, 2011, at 1:34 p.m.

The Bangor Daily News’ decision to publish an editorial by Rep. Walter Kumiega on Maine’s new health care law is unfortunate (BDN, Sept. 12). It would be one thing if Kumiega were just misrepresenting the facts. But he is making them up out of whole cloth.

Kumiega sites a poll done by Market Decisions that finds “21 percent of Mainers fear losing their health insurance over the next 12 months, and nearly 40 percent of those individuals said the top reason for their fear was the new health care law passed by Republicans in Augusta.”

Indeed, respondents did tell Market Decisions the new health care law was a concern, but they didn’t specify which law they were talking about! It’s highly likely respondents were referring to the federal Affordable Care Act, also known as “Obamacare.”

Market Decisions President Curtis A. Mildner was surprised by Rep. Kumiega’s interpretation of his company’s research. Mr. Mildner explains:

“What the research report said was: Concerns mentioned about health insurance loss include:

• The new health care law (39 percent)

• Eligibility for MaineCare/Medicaid (26 percent)

• A loss of employment (15 percent)

• Premium cost increases (11 percent)

“These are based on open-ended comments received after we asked, Why are you concerned?

“We did not analyze whether the respondents meant the 2011 Maine Public Law 90 or the 2010 U.S. Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. We know from research in other states that few are familiar with details of the PCCA and we believe that this is also true for the Maine law.

“Most citizens don’t read legislation, instead they rely on what they read or hear and information is often incomplete or incorrect. Since they do not know whom to believe about the effects of various legislation, citizens have become concerned in general about changes to the health insurance market.”

Rep. Kumiega also takes information from an Ellsworth American article wildly out of context to misrepresent Maine’s new health care law. They both cite the paper’s finding that some small group insurance plans would see rate increases of up to 90 percent because of the new law.

While it’s true that it appears some plans are seeing increases, Kumiega must have missed a quote in the same article about the new health care law that states “early indications point to positive results statewide.”

And it’s no surprise that positive results are being seen. This long requested legislation, finally instituted by the Republican majority in the Legislature and passed with bipartisan support, injects more competition into Maine’s insurance industry and allows market forces to play a bigger role in determining rates.

None of these new reforms is radical. Rather, they are reasonable approaches to solving health care problems that have been successful in other states.

So one wonders why Rep. Kumiega is intent on misrepresenting the new Maine health care law. Could it be because the apparent success of the new law wouldn’t benefit him and other Democrats politically? Or does it force them to defend Dirigo, the failed plan to lower health insurance rates here in Maine?

Regardless of the motivation, the people of Maine deserve better from those who have been elected to serve them.

Rep. John Picchiotti, R-Fairfield, serves on the Insurance and Financial Services Committee.

http://bangordailynews.com/2011/09/16/opinion/contributors/health-care-survey-results-misrepresented/ printed on July 28, 2014