BANGOR, Maine — The City Council will mail a letter to the state’s federal government representatives opposing repealing Obamacare, Chairman Joe Baldacci said Tuesday.
Crafted by City Solicitor Norman Heitmann, the letter to U.S. Reps. Chellie Pingree and Bruce Poliquin and U.S. Sens. Susan Collins and Angus King will likely reach them next week, Baldacci said.
The council voted 7-2 to approve the idea on Monday after an occasionally contentious debate on the national health care act that took up large portions of councilors’ 5:30 p.m. workshop and their full council meeting at 7:30 p.m. Councilors Cary Weston and David Nealley opposed the proposed resolution.
Weston described the letter as well-meaning but inappropriate for the council and burdensome work for government staff.
“We’ve had resolves against war, against Citizens United, against Supreme Court cases, we’ve told other communities what they are supposed to do do. These are useless exercises,” Weston said during the workshop.
“I won’t be supporting this resolve, I won’t be supporting any resolve, that doesn’t actually pay attention to why we’re here,” Weston added. “I think listening to constituents and citizens talk about not getting responses to potholes, to code issues … and to put together a letter that is really outside the purview of why we are here is not good use for our time.”
Others supported the idea. Baldacci said that with Bangor-area hospitals projected to lose hundreds of thousands of dollars annually if the Affordable Care Act is repealed without replacement, the council has a legitimate stake in the issue. One projection sets $300 million as the likely loss to Maine hospitals if the act is repealed without replacement.
A draft of Heitmann’s letter, which is expected to be refined, cites how the act, since it was passed in 2010, has reduced the number of uninsured from 41 million to 29 million people nationwide. Under the act, 588,000 Mainers are eligible for preventative care without cost-sharing, while 8,000 others get coverage until age 26. More than 273,000 Mainers on Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program also benefit from the program, Heitmann wrote.
The Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank based in Washington, D.C., said in November 2016 that the care act’s flaws include an expected 25 percent increase in health care costs in 2017, an overly complex system of excessive insurance subsidies, health benefit mandates and rating rules that greatly increase health insurance costs, and a flawed arrangement for protecting people from coverage exclusions for pre-existing medical conditions.
Residents who spoke during Monday’s council meeting were mostly in favor of keeping Obamacare intact. Resident Kevin Sheasgreen said the act’s repeal would imperil the city’s poorest and hardest-working residents.
“I think after a lot of ideological showboating, there’s no realistic replacement that’s going to be an improvement on it, and perhaps with enough pressure of this sort we can get down to the work of actually continuing the ACA and improving it,” Sheasgreen said, “and improving the health of our citizens.”
Correction: An earlier version of this report misspelled Cary Weston's name.