(UPDATED WITH VIDEO) Testimony of Rachel Sukeforth Against Dirigo Health Board Nominee Jon McKane (TEXT; PIX)

Posted on March 6, 2013. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , |

UPDATED: Here is a video of Ms. Sukeforth’s testimony.

Rachel Sukeforth of Litchfield testified yesterday in strong opposition against the nomination of former Rep. Jonathan McKane (R-Newcastle) to the Dirigo Health board. Below is her written testimony.

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    Good afternoon Senator Gratwick, Representative Treat and members of the Insurance and Financial Services Committee. My name is Rachel Sukeforth and I’d like to raise some concerns about the nomination of Jonathan McKane to the Dirigo Health Board.

    This committee has heard about some of the derrogative and generally offensive language that nominee Jon McKane has used to describe his political opponents and the program he now seeks to represent. I’d like to offer testimony today on a specific and particularly troubling aspect of this behavior, the language Mr. McKane has used to describe women involved in health care policy in Maine.

    Mr. McKane has, many times over a period of several years, referred to the administrators and supporters of the Dirigo Health program as “Dirigirls.” A Google search of the AsMaineGoes.com domain for the term along with Mr. McKane’s name returns 67 results, most of them linking to posts he has made or discussions he has engaged in featuring the term.

    By using the term at all, Mr. McKane was engaging in sexism by marking the gender of and subtly infantilizing the women involved in Dirigo. That would be bad enough, but Mr. McKane actually makes it clear in his posts that he intends for the word to be a genderbased insult.

    On two occasions he calls male Consumers for Affordable Health Care executive director Joe Ditre (whom he refers to as Joey Dirte) a Dirigirl and makes it clear that the remark is meant to be derogatory.

    As a scientist, I know how hard women must sometimes work to make progress in a male dominated field. As a graduate of Emerge Maine and a woman involved in politics and advocacy, I am acutely aware of the long struggle for respect and equality for women in government and public policy. For Mr. McKane to use his position of authority to spread this kind of sexism is an insult to this legislature and the State of Maine. It should certainly disqualify him from serving on a government board.

    Lest one think that Mr. McKane has outgrown these kinds of unfortunate statements, I’d point the members of this committee to a post he made on the As Maine Goes website just a few months ago.

    That thread was begun with a post lamenting the role of women voters in reelecting President Barack Obama. Here is the text of the first post, from user “john w k”:
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      “It is so sad that America has been destroyed from within because our federal government has been allowed to buy votes with “free stuff”. Unfortunately, our nation’s majority voting block are women and most of them want free stuff and they have sold out our country to get it.”

    Mr. McKane responded by posting a historical pamphlet from a group called National Association OPPOSED to Woman Suffrage, listing a number of reasons why women should not be allowed to vote.

    (NOTE: I have seen the AMG thread and pamphlet image that Ms. Sukeforth describes for myself. Below is the image Rep. McKane shared. ~AP)

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    I’m sure Mr. McKane would say this, like his many other misogynistic comments, is “just a joke and we should get over it”.

    Well, I’m sorry, but the right of women not to be attacked for their gender when they vote, when they work in government and when they speak out for what they believe in is not a joke. It should be their fundamental right.

    These concerns are especially important when it comes to the board being considered here.

    Women are vitally important consumers of health care in Maine.

    They’re often responsible for the health care and insurance decisions of their whole family in addition to themselves. Women are more vulnerable to losing their insurance compared to men, as they are more likely to be covered as dependents. If they are divorced or widowed or if family health care costs increase to an unaffordable level, they are often the first to lose coverage. Women, statistically, have greater rates of health problems and longer life spans than men and are also more likely to be low income. (http://www.kff.org/womenshealth/)

    As a young women, working full time, uninsured and grappling with my own recurring reproductive health issues, I am particularly concerned for the future of access of women to preventative health screenings.

    To select someone, such as Mr. McKane, to a board with such a broad mandate who has said these things and holds these views would be unfair to Maine women and to all Maine people who expect to be treated fairly by their government institutions.

    Thank you for your time.

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

Posted on January 25, 2013. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , |

(Originally posted on Dirigo Blue, 5/25/11. ~AP)

“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 Maine’s 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 bill that 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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