July 23, 2019
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Speaker Gideon should focus on Maine problems, not 2020

Robert F. Bukaty | AP
Robert F. Bukaty | AP
House Speaker Sara Gideon, D-Freeport, arrives in the chamber after being re-elected to her leadership post in December 2018.

Sara Gideon should be very busy right now. A new governor will be sworn in Jan. 2, and Democrats have large majorities in the Maine Senate and the Maine House, where she will be serving as speaker.

One would think she would be working feverishly to prepare for the upcoming legislative session. But as we saw from her Dec. 18 BDN column, she is far more concerned with her personal political ambitions for 2020.

Rather than focusing on the important issues facing our state like job creation, education, transportation, and the opioid epidemic, Gideon is echoing the fear-mongering about the Affordable Care Act and taking ill-informed potshots at Sen. Susan Collins.

Her column, which distorted the senator’s record, attacks Collins for voting to eliminate the “individual mandate” that was part of the ACA. The individual mandate imposed a penalty that people who could not afford to buy health insurance were forced to pay.

For instance, if you were an individual making $35,000 a year and could not afford to pay for health insurance, you were fined $695 per year, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. This is the mandate that Gideon supports. More than 80 percent of the people who were forced to pay this penalty were those earning less than $50,000 per year.

If Gideon looked beyond her far left-wing talking points, she might see the basic unfairness behind penalizing people who can’t afford to buy insurance for not buying insurance. The Democrats in the U.S. Senate seemed to understand this – because not a single one of them offered an amendment to save this ill-advised mandate.

Gideon joined the chorus of special interest groups on the left that are using a lower court ruling in Texas to exploit the fears of those living with pre-existing health conditions. That Texas court ruling has zero impact on insurance plans this year or next year, and many legal experts predict it will be overturned. Even if the decision were upheld, however, Mainers with pre-existing conditions would be protected by the state’s robust consumer protection laws, a fact that Gideon ignores.

Gideon concludes by slamming Collins for her bipartisan efforts to stabilize the health care markets and reduce insurance premiums by 40 percent in the ACA’s individual market. Gideon seems to be unaware that it was a top Democratic senator who blocked these bills.

With the 2018 elections barely a month old, it should be the time for those elected to represent Maine at all levels of government to focus on ways to help the people of Maine. For Gideon, however, her next campaign appears to be more important to her than doing her current job.

Annie Clark is communications director for U.S. Sen. Susan Collins.



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