Archive for May, 2011

“Two Maines”: Health Care, New Taxes and the Marginalization of Rural Maine

Posted on May 23, 2011. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , |

(Received via email. ~ed.)

“Two Maines”: Health Care, New Taxes and the Marginalization of Rural Maine

By Troy Haines

As people living in Rural Maine, we have a shared understanding of our place in the politics of this state.  We know that the way of life we enjoy is second to none, but that somehow we are considered to be less important, or perhaps less impactful than the urban centers in Maine.  We know that the idea of “Two Maines” is very much prevalent in the minds of most Mainers, but  we differ in that we prefer the rural way of life.  Therefore it is a hard pill to swallow when our elected officials choose to pass legislation that makes it increasingly difficult to live in rural areas of Maine that are already economically depressed.

In the past, this attitude has manifested itself in the form of legislators from urban centers ignoring or failing to support legislation that benefits rural Maine, or passing legislation that negatively impacts rural Maine, simply because the disproportionate amount of representation in urban centers allow them to do so (Portland is 22 square miles and has 8 representatives, Aroostook is 7,000 square miles and has 9 representatives).

This is no longer the case.  We now find ourselves facing legislation that makes it nearly impossible to live in rural Maine that is supported by our own representatives. It is now the people we elected to represent us who are furthering the lobbyist driven urban agenda to our detriment and seeing to it that it is nearly impossible to maintain the way of life we enjoy.

The examples of this occurring during this administration are myriad (pro-foreign logging legislation, roll-backs of child labor laws and the elimination of revenue sharing with rural Maine in the budget to name a few), but no one instance has been so unabashedly anti-rural Maine as the discussion (or lack thereof) and passage of LD1333, the now infamous “Health Insurance” bill.

Let’s examine these provisions and how they affect different groups, point by point:

  • The bill allows insurers to charge 3 times as much for people over the age of 48.
  • People in “hazardous” positions can now be charged 5 times as much for their insurance.  Farm work, mill work, logging and many of the other jobs that factor heavily into the economy of rural Maine will be subject to this.
  • The bill allows the insurance industry to decide what positions fall under these provisions with no oversight.  Worst of all people living in rural Maine can be charged unlimited increases based solely on the fact that they live in rural Maine.  In addition to this insurers can require their policy holders to travel any distance they see fit for care.
  • Under the new law insurers can require a patient in Fort Kent to travel to Portland to see a doctor, and refuse to pay if that patient chooses a provider closer to home.
  • This bill eliminates many consumer protections Mainers currently have.  Once the bill is implemented, insurers can drop you if you get sick, can deny you coverage based on pre-existing conditions and can decide if they want to cover an illness or injury based solely on whether they want to pay the bill.  These are all things that they can’t do under current Maine law.
  • LD1333 also eliminates the power of the Superintendant of Insurance to block rate increases.  Since March of 2009 Anthem alone has asked for increases totaling more than 50%, in the same period that they enjoyed some of the largest profits they have ever had.  Maine’s Insurance Superintendant, Mila Kofman, denied them this increase.  Since the passage of 1333, she has resigned.  Under the new law their rate increases cannot be denied.
  • This law creates 24 million in new taxes on all Mainers who currently have coverage (with the exception of legislators.  They exempted themselves from the new tax), this from an administration and representatives who pledged not to create new taxes.
  • The Maine Center for Economic Policy estimates that rates for individual policy holders in Aroostook County will increase by 19%, and group policies by 17% (source: MECEP “Health Plan Winners and Losers”)
    .
  • Many people who are currently covered by their employers will be dropped because businesses will no longer be able to afford to cover them.  In fact nearly every segment of Maines population will see increases.  The only reductions will occur in and around Portland.Who are the legislators who are marginalizing rural Maine?  Every single Republican legislator from Aroostook County voted for this billthat increases our premiums by one fifth and results in loss of coverage for thousands, as did every Republican legislator, rural and urban alike, throughout the state.They spent only nine days debating this bill. In fact, Pat Flood (R-Winthrop) resigned his appropriations chairmanship over the unethical way in which this bill was rammed through.  Contrasted with the fact that they spent 52 days debating and passing a bill to make whoopee pies “Maine’s Official Confection”, you can see that they failed us in their approach of such a substantial bill.

    The basis for supporting this bill has come largely from the fact that Idaho has instituted a similar system.  Publicly Republicans have stated time and again that our system should look like the one Idaho recently introduced.  What they have failed to mention is that Idaho’s system has collapsed as a result of the changes.  Costs have significantly increased and thousands of Idaho citizens have lost their insurance.

    This bill is not good for anyone.  It’s not good for patients or providers.  It’s not good for hospitals or administrators, for large businesses or small.  It benefits no one except insurance companies.  Starting in 2014, Federal law will prohibit insurance companies from arbitrarily increasing rates.  All this bill accomplishes is allowing those companies to significantly elevate their rates ahead of this deadline to insure maximized profits at the expense of Maine citizens.

    With this so obviously being the case why did we end up with such a bad bill being passed?  Perhaps it’s because no other bill in this session has been so intensely lobbied.  Insurance companies spent tens of thousands of dollars lobbying this bill, and in the end their return will be significant.

    In places like Aroostook County we need legislators with strong voices who will protect and further our way of life.  We certainly can’t survive our own elected officials passing legislation designed to increase insurance industry profits at the expense of the elderly, the hard working, and rural Mainers.

    Troy Haines is the chair of the Aroostook County Democratic Committee.  He can be reached at 1-207-551-1301 or gyre1976@yahoo.com

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Is Governor LePage Maine’s “Trump-Schwarzenegger?”

Posted on May 19, 2011. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , |

Substitute “LePage” for “Trump-Schwarzenegger” and see what you think. From last night’s “The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell” on MSNBC:

The critical portion is at the end, starting at the 8:55 mark. Here is a transcription:

But a Trump like candidate- a Schwarzenegger like candidate- will present himself or herself again and that is the only reason I am revisiting the Donald Trump campaign tonight.

It is simply to make this point:

  • That the “Trump-Schwazenegger” like candidate who comes along next will offer simple sounding solutions to very complex problems, that that candidate does not and cannot understand.
  • That candidate will brand himself or herself as confident, bold, tough and truthful.
  • That candidate will not have the experience to be able to tell the one simple truth we know about government: To govern is to choose and the choices are never easy.

    These men have taught American voters everything that they need to know:

    To never, ever, make the Schwarzenegger mistake again.

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    Maine Foresters and Loggers Speak in Opposition at LD 1383 Public Hearing

    Posted on May 11, 2011. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , |

      (That so many were willing to take a day without pay and spend so many hours driving from Aroostook County to Augusta and back, with gas at $4 a gallon, speaks volumes to the dire nature and strength of opposition these hard working Mainers have to LD 1383. These are people who are watching their livelihoods and communities be threatened by this proposed legislation. ~AP)

    Over 50 Maine foresters drove down from Arookstook County last Friday for a press conference and then public hearing, both in opposition to LD 1383, “An Act To Improve the Process by Which Logging Contractors Hire Legal Foreign Workers” (pictures here).

    Here are some of the testimonies of those who are opposing LD 1383.

    Chace Joe Jackson:

    Small business owner Shelly Mountain:

    Wayne McBreairty:

    Emery Debay, a Bucksport mill worker:

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    Senator Troy Jackson (D-Aroostook) Urges Support For Maine Loggers, Oppose LD 1383

    Posted on May 5, 2011. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , |


    There will be a rally at 11am Friday, May 6
    , to support Northern Maine loggers and a public hearing for LD 1383, “An Act To Improve the Process by Which Logging Contractors Hire Legal Foreign Workers”, at 1pm in Room 208 of the Cross Building.

    Here are video clips of Senator Troy Jackson (D-Aroostook) explaining the impacts of the recently passed LD 338, “An Act To Provide an Income Tax Credit for Logging Companies That Hire Maine Residents” on the Maine logging industry. Part 1:

    Part 2:

    Here again is Senator Jackson’s press release regarding LD 338’s passage:

     

    Press release from the Maine Senate Democratic Office: SENATE DEMOCRATS FIGHT TO PROTECT MAINE LOGGERS


    April 12, 2011- Senate Republicans give tax breaks to landowners hiring foreign labor

    Augusta- Today the Senate voted down Senator Troy Jackson’s bill which, if passed, would have eliminated an existing tax break incentive to forest owners who hire foreign labor over Maine workers.

    During a vigorous floor debate, Sen. Jackson, who is the Democratic lead on the Labor, Commerce, Research and Economic Development Committee said, “It’s a poke in the eye to watch Canadian trucks drive by my house on their way to Canadian mills, with Maine lumber while my neighbors sit at home unemployed.”

    He went on to ask, “Do we really want to be giving tax breaks supporting the hiring of Canadian workers over Maine workers? It is my job to protect the people of Aroostook County, many of whom happen to be unemployed loggers.”

    The law as proposed and amended would have required a landowner to notify the Department of Conservation, Bureau of Forestry if the forest land is harvested using bonded labor under the federal H2 bonded labor program. If a landowner or a harvester uses bonded labor, or if the landowner fails to provide the required notification, the land must be suspended from the Maine Tree Growth Tax Law for the year in which bonded labor is used and a penalty must be assessed under the commercial forestry excise tax to compensate the state for the General Fund.In a vote of 21-14, the Democratic caucus voted in support of LD 314.

    Jackson, who has been a logger for 20 years, noted on the Senate floor that out of the 77,000 acres in Allagash, 72,000 of those acres are in designated tree growth areas.

    Sen. John Patrick of Rumford also spoke in favor of the bill saying, “The ‘open for business’ sign that the Governor put up should now read, ‘open for business for Canadian workers. We need to start protecting Maine workers.”

    For every million “board feet,” a measurement of lumber volume, that is exported to Canada, 13.7 full time, high paying jobs are lost to Maine workers. It is estimated that between 350 and 500 million “board feet,” is exported to Canada at the St. Pamphile, Quebec point of entry. A conservative estimate of jobs lost annually is between 4,795 and 6,850 jobs.

    “It is our tax money. Why can’t we have a say?” said Sen. Jackson. “We are allowing a resource here in Maine to be cut and hauled by people other than Maine workers and then to give landowners a tax break for doing so is mind-boggling.”

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    Rep Ellie Espling (R- New Gloucester) Introduces LD 924

    Posted on May 4, 2011. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , |

    From Dirigo Blue, some quotes from Espling:

      Often, as a new legislator, we are reminded to look carefully at the bills before us and not to rely on the title of a bill to explain its entire intent. This is definitely the case for LD924, as this bill is so much more than just informing women of risks associated with abortion. The purpose of this bill is to ensure that women are given as much information as possible in making a truly informed decision about abortion. This committee has dealt with these women’s health issues in the past and no doubt will in the future. People are passionate about this issue on both sides. My intent is to present this bill and go over its wording. The testimonies following will give you the reaons why this bill is important for the protection of women.

      Most patients, unless in dire emergency situations have, as standard practice a wait time after diagnosis before treatment.

    From a Q&A session between Espiling and Senator Phil Bartlett (D-Portland):

      Bartlett: One of the categories is that scientifically accurate information about the fetus be required. Who will determine what is scientifically accurate and how detailed the information should be?

      Espling: OK – it’s just scientifically accurate information that doesn’t spell out – in what form that information will be given to the patient. My understanding is that in a lot of abortion procedures they do perform an ultrasound because they need to date the fetus and so I don’t think there’s much discrepancy in the scientific accuracy of an ultrasound. So that would be part of the scientific….

      Bartlett: So what you mean is, scientific accuracy about that particular fetus?

      Espling: Yes. For that woman. For that patient. Yes.

      Bartlett: So the question is how far do they have to go to provide an ultrasound…I’m just trying to understand how detailed do they have to go – do they have to know the height, the weight – I’m sure–

      Espling: That’s really not spelled out here. The intent is that if the woman has a general idea, “I think I’m 6 weeks pregnant,” I think they should have a general idea of what 6 weeks pregnant means. And we certainly – through human anatomy and biology know how big that fetus is or what the fetus looks like at 6 weeks. So that would be the information.

    A reminder: Dr Joan Leizer’s testimony clearly addresses the lack of medical veracity in the brochures from South Dakota and Texas upon which LD 924 and Espling use as fact:

    the Maine Right to Life Committee states that this bill was, and I quote: “modeled after legislation which has been successfully brought forward in other states: Missouri, Texas, South Dakota and Georgia”.
    However, the scripts developed by goverment officials in those states contain false, misleading and out-of-date information.
    The brochures for Texas falsely assert that abortion causes breast cancer, despite the fact that the National Cancer Institute has definitively stated that there is no such link. Even more concerning to a mental health professional like me, both Texas and South Dakota falsely assert that abortion causes negative,and only negative, emotional responses.

    That’s just not true.

    The findings of Munk-Olsen et al from the Jan 27, 2011 New England Journal of Medicine demonstrate no support of the “hypothesis that there is an increased risk of mental disorders after a first trimester abortion”. This is a high quality observational study (cohort design) and offers strong evidence suggesting that first trimester abortion is NOT associated with psychiatric disorder. In other words, there is no statistical correlation between abortion and depression. But the states that have a script assert this and other falsehoods.

    The Texas and South Dakota brochures claim that a woman may experience suicidal thoughts or so-called “postabortion traumatic stress syndrome”. This is a fictional diagnosis that is not recognized by either the American Psychological Association or the American Pediatric Association.

    The South Dakota materials state that an “unborn child may feel physical pain”. The Texas materials assert that pain perception can occur as early as 12 weeks’ gestation, although “some experts have concluded that the unborn child is probably able to feel physical pain” at 20 weeks. The truth, according to a 2005 article in the Journal of the American Medical Association, is that the sensory systems necessary to feel pain develop between the 23rd and 30th week of gestation.

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    Maine Physicians Testify in Opposition to Abortion Bills LDs 116, 924 and 1457

    Posted on May 3, 2011. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , |

    Maine Womens’ Lobby email:

     

    L.D. 924 – “An Act to Educate Women on the Medical Risks Associated with Abortion.”

    This bill would require doctors to read a biased and coercive script to a patient … 24 hours before she could obtain an abortion.

    Women making decisions about their health have a right to non-biased information and conversation – not manipulation.

    And that’s just one of 4 bills – 4 very bad bills – aimed at putting politicians between you and your right to make your own decisions about when and whether to bear children.

    C’mon. Trust women. Trust us to make decisions that are right for our lives.

    We need your help right now to counter this attack on reproductive privacy.

    Misleading women, especially those struggling with difficult decisions, is unconscionable. This bill isn’t about educating women. It’s about shaming women out of choosing an abortion.

    It’s about providing incomplete and medically inaccurate information.

    It’s not medicine – it’s politics. And politics shouldn’t come between you and your physician.

    Give right here, right now.

    And, that’s not all.

    L.D. 1457 would repeal Maine’s successful adult involvement law and require signed, notarized consent from a minor’s parent before she can obtain an abortion.

    L.D. 116 would require two in-person visits to an abortion provider; one to provide informed consent, and a second 24 hours later to have the procedure. These proposed waiting periods increase the medical, emotional, and financial cost of abortion.

    And, L.D. 1463 proposes to create a new class of crime for harm to a fetus.

    We trust Maine women to make their own health choices in consultation with their medical providers. And, Maine has a longstanding, bipartisan tradition of common sense laws protecting women’s health and safety.

     

     

    ================

    The public hearings on LDs 116, 924 and 1457 will be held in Room 438 starting at 1pm TODAY. Those attending are urged to please wear PINK to show support.

    Photos of the press conference here.

    Video of Dr. Leitzer speaking at a press conference held at the Statehouse this morning.

    Links here to video of Dr. Betsy Weiss of Bangor and retired OB/GYN Dr. Robert Walker of Blue Hill, presenting their statements opposing the three bills.

    Testimony of Dr. Joan Leitzer, MD, Portland

    Opposition to:

    LD 116, “An Act To Require a 24-hour Waiting Period prior to an Abortion”
    LD 924, “An Act To Educate Women on the Medical Risks With Abortion”
    LD 1457, “An Act To Strengthen the Consent Laws for Abortions Performed on Minors and Incapacitated Persons”

    Submitted to Joint Standing Committee on Judiciary

    May 3, 2011

    Good afternoon.

    I am Dr. Joan Leitzer, a psychiatrist in Portland, and have practiced psychiatry for over twenty-five years. I am also the mother of two grown children. I am here to urge you to oppose all three anti-abortion bills. The proposal that I find the most objectionable, as a physician, is the proposal (LD 924) that would require that doctors read a government-approved script to any patient seeking an abortion.

    As a physician, I have an obligation to provide scientifically and medically accurate information to my patients. I also have an ethical obligation to ensure informed consent by all of my patients prior to any treatment. The three tenets of informed consent for treatment are that:

    • The patient must have the capacity to give consent.
    • Consent must be truly voluntary.
    • A patient must be provided with adequate information to make decisions.LD 924 is counter to the concept of informed consent which requires that doctors ensure that patients are capable of making a decision, are making that decision on a voluntary basis free of coercion, and have accurate information to make that decision in an informed way.Indeed, LD 924 contradicts this principle of informed consent by introducing elements of bias and coercion into the process. Counceling is not reading a government-approves script to a patient. Counceling is definitely not reading inflammatory anti-abortion language to a patient in an attempt to coerce her or shame her into not having an abortion.I understand that the Maine Right to Life Committee states that this bill was, and I quote: “modeled after legislation which has been successfully brought forward in other states: Missouri, Texas, South Dakota and Georgia”.
      However, the scripts developed by goverment officials in those states contain false, misleading and out-of-date information.

      The brochures for Texas falsely assert that abortion causes breast cancer, despite the fact that the National Cancer Institute has definitively stated that there is no such link. Even more concerning to a mental health professional like me, both Texas and South Dakota falsely assert that abortion causes negative,and only negative, emotional responses.

      That’s just not true. Some patients may feels sadness, guilt or regret, but other patients may experience a decrease of anxiety and/or relief.

      The findings of Munk-Olsen et al from the Jan 27, 2011 New England Journal of Medicine demonstrate no support of the “hypothesis that there is an increased risk of mental disorders after a first trimester abortion”. This is a high quality observational study (cohort design) and offers strong evidence suggesting that first trimester abortion is NOT associated with psychiatric disorder. In other words, there is no statistical correlation between abortion and depression. But the states that have a script assert this and other falsehoods.

      The Texas and South Dakota brochures claim that a woman may experience suicidal thoughts or so-called “postabortion traumatic stress syndrome”. This is a fictional diagnosis that is not recognized by either the American Psychological Association or the American Pediatric Association.

      The South Dakota materials state that an “unborn child may feel physical pain”. The Texas materials assert that pain perception can occur as early as 12 weeks’ gestation, although “some experts have concluded that the unborn child is probably able to feel physical pain” at 20 weeks. The truth, according to a 2005 article in the Journal of the American Medical Association, is that the sensory systems necessary to feel pain develop between the 23rd and 30th week of gestation.

      The misinformation, contained in brochures from the states after which Maine Right to Life has modeled this proposal, see,s designed to convince women that abortion is wrong. Promoting an anti-abortion viewpoint through a government-issued brochure contradicts doctors’ ethical obligations to our patients.

      Even if we disagree, we should never impose our personal religious or political views on a patient. But that’s exactly what this bill will do. I urge you to reject biased government-mandated scripting of what takes place in the doctor’s office. I have dedicated my life to counseling women and men through some of the most difficult circumstances of their lives. As a professional, I uphold my ethical obligation to ensure that all of my patients provide informed consent to any course of treatment.

      There is no need to single out abortion and treat it any differently that any other legal, medical procedure. I urge you- regardless of what you think about abortion- not to impose a particular set of religious or moral views on women seeking abortion. Please reject LD 924, as well as LD 116 and LD 1457.

      Thank you.

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