By Rep. Lawrence E. Lockman
Here’s a New Year’s prediction you can take to the bank:
The very same liberal ideologues whose policy prescriptions wrecked Maine’s health insurance market over the past several decades will work overtime this year to promote Obamacare as Mainers’ last best hope for affordable health insurance. And the professional left’s feel-good media campaign will be ripe with cherry-picked anecdotes but notably short on hard data.
The first salvos of the propaganda war have already been launched in the Bangor Daily News. In an ongoing series of articles titled “ACA 201,” we are learning that Mainers can hardly contain their enthusiasm for Obamacare. These front-page puff pieces are loaded with anecdotal reports from happy consumers getting bargains on health insurance for the first time in their lives. Their personal stories of hope and change are woven together with interviews of “experts” in the field of health care policy, nearly all of whom are (surprise!) cheerleaders for Obamacare.
Chief among the cheerleaders is Wendy Wolf, president and CEO of the Augusta-based Maine Health Access Foundation. MeHAF was founded in April 2000 with a $100-million mandated kickback from the proceeds of the sale of Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Maine to Anthem. The mission of the private, tax-exempt foundation is to promote access to quality health care. Wolf’s annual compensation is $206,506 for a 40-hour week.
At the time of MeHAF’s formation, skeptics in Augusta raised concerns that the new nonprofit would devolve into another slush fund for left-wing activist groups. Today there is no question that MeHAF has taken sides in the political fight over government’s role in health care. No sooner had Obamacare been jammed through Congress on a straight party-line vote than Wolf lauded the 2,500-page statute for “taking our country forward toward joining all other industrialized nations in providing a national plan to bring affordable health insurance coverage to millions of Americans.”
Since that time, MeHAF has dropped money bomb after money bomb into the campaign for a more expansive government role in health care. In January of last year the group dumped $670,000 into the fight to give medical welfare to 70,000 non-elderly, non-disabled Maine adults. The purpose of the grants was to fund activist groups lobbying the Legislature to approve Medicaid expansion under Obamacare.
Among the MeHAF grant recipients: Maine Peoples Resource Center ($100,000); Consumers for Affordable Health Care ($150,000); Maine Center for Economic Policy ($135,000); and Maine Equal Justice Partners ($149,042); left-wing organizations all.
The cruel irony here is that liberal health care reforms enacted in Maine over 20 years ago blew up the private health insurance market and led directly to the lack of affordable coverage so lamented by progressives. Community rating with guaranteed issue — a deadly combination — were the core components of those reforms in the early 1990s, and now of Obamacare. Within a few years after enactment, Maine witnessed the exodus of 11 carriers from the individual market. In 1987, before the new regulations, 79 percent of Mainers were covered by private health insurance. By 2005, the rate of privately insured had dropped to 66.5 percent.
The left’s next experiment in health care was Dirigo Health, an expensive and monumental failure that devoured hundreds of millions of federal and state tax dollars before it crashed and burned.
Given this history, why would anyone in their right mind trust liberals to fix the health care system they broke?
Maine’s nanny state, nonprofit industrial complex is the progressives’ alphabet soup of tax-exempt lobbying and social service entities that promote and feed off the relentless expansion of government. Left-wing ideologues have embedded themselves in this vast infrastructure of interlocking nonprofit organizations that provide permanent high-paying jobs for the liberal elite and the party faithful.
They measure success by the number of people who depend on government to meet their basic needs, whether it’s food, housing, education or health care. That’s why Wendy Wolf is so happy to report that 90 percent of the Mainers who have signed up for coverage under Obamacare qualify for subsidies from the federal government. Never mind that with $18 trillion in accumulated debt, and borrowing money from our grandchildren to fund current services, the government in Washington is dead broke.
We can fix what is wrong with health care without adding more dynamite to the debt bomb we’re passing to our grandchildren. Market-based reforms have a proven track record. But first we need to remove Maine’s liberal elite ruling class from its lucrative perch inside and out of state government.
Let the house cleaning begin.
Rep. Lawrence E. Lockman (R-Amherst) is serving his second term in the Maine House of Representatives, District 137. He serves on the Labor, Commerce, Research & Economic Development Committee. He may be reached at [email protected].