Maine’s Open Enrollment for ACA Insurance Begins Nov. 1 / Public News Service

Family doctor examining throat of a small black boy while visiting him at home during coronavirus pandemic.

Originally published on October 21, 2022 in Beacon: A Project of the Maine People’s Alliance

Maine continues to see the largest decreases in the number of people who are uninsured in recent years, and the trend is expected to continue as open enrollment for health insurance through the Affordable Care Act begins November 1st.

One change Mainers will notice this year is that Congress expanded the subsidies for health insurance premiums, so people who purchase plans through the federal exchange will pay no more than 8.5% of their household income through 2025.

Dr. Rhonda Randall, chief medical officer for UnitedHealthcare employer and individual, said it’s important to set aside time to compare all the plans available as well as understand your own family’s needs.

“Just because you had a certain coverage last year,” Randall explained, “you might not want to have that coverage roll over. You want to make sure that you’re looking into what your options for 2023 look like.”

Randall said more insurers are expanding their mental health coverage and offering more virtual care options, which gained in popularity during the pandemic. She said it’s also important to consider the value of having an integrated plan that covers specialty care, such as hearing, dental or vision.

She added that UnitedHealthcare has posted online videos to help people navigate the exchange as well as the sometimes confusing insurance terminology.

More insurance companies are also expanding their wellness incentives. They may offer discounted rates for people who exercise, don’t smoke and work to lower their blood pressure. Randall said your goal should be to find a plan that helps you navigate the health care system.

“So, you’re looking for also a health plan that’s going to have good advocacy,” Randall said. “Whether it’s a digital interaction or you’re calling your health plan to interact, they’re helping you maximize your benefits and services in getting you to the care that you need at the right time.”

Open enrollment is the only time during the year, outside a special enrollment window, that people can sign up for a plan or change their current health coverage. Open enrollment runs Nov. 1 through Jan. 15.

Photo: Family doctor examining throat of a small black boy while visiting him at home during coronavirus pandemic. | Drazen Zigic, Getty Images

Beacon, October 21, 2022,

Opinion: Maine Med-Anthem rift underscores why we need universal health care now / by Katrina Ray-Saulis

Photo: Maine Medical Center in Portland, Maine. | via Maine Medical Center

Rachel King, a community college advisor from Boothbay, woke up Thursday Morning to an upsetting email from MaineHealth. The email, which went out to previous Maine Medical patients who have Anthem insurance, read: “I’m writing to let you know that MaineHealth has made the difficult decision to serve notice to the health insurer Anthem that, beginning in 2023, Maine Medical Center will no longer be an in-network provider of non-emergency care for those with Anthem commercial coverage.” The email went on to describe what healthcare Anthem consumers would and would not be able to access come 2023 and was signed by MaineHealth CEO Andrew Mueller, MD. 

King was devastated. “I have a brain aneurysm that has to be checked every two years. If they are out of my network, the cost to me is financially a hardship.” King, like many Mainers, runs the risk of being deeply impacted if this split between Anthem and Maine Medical Center goes through. But the frustrating part is, as King put it, is “the fact that we are getting these letters means we are pawns in the game.” 

Corporate negotiations moving into the public sphere aren’t an uncommon act. In fact, it is an effective negotiating tactic and likely will result in Anthem and MaineHealth brokering some sort of deal. In the end it is highly unlikely that one of Maine’s largest healthcare providers will actually make a complete disconnect from one of the nation’s largest insurance providers.

I am beyond tired of the volatility of the American healthcare system. I think most of us are. We are tired of worrying about losing healthcare, negotiating near-impossible standards within the healthcare system, and paying exorbitant rates for something that so many other countries have proven can be handled in a much better way. 

One need only search “American healthcare” on any social media site to find countless discussions about the hidden costs, exorbitant rates, and evidence of the unreliability of the American healthcare system. American healthcare is literally a joke among people in other countries. 

It’s not that efforts aren’t being made to make healthcare more accessible. Democrats have been trying for years. The Affordable Insulin Now Act, which was cosponsored by Maine’s independent Sen. Angus King this year and just passed the House this week, has the potential to keep insulin costs at a reasonable level nationwide. Actions like expanding Medicare, and passing the Affordable Care Act, similarly opened up healthcare to more and more people. Attempts are being made.

But how long are we going to keep trying to make these tiny fixes to our healthcare system when the real solution is one broad, sweeping change to a universal health care system? Medicare for all, universal healthcare, consumer-run healthcare. Whichever you choose, it is the only real way to stop American people from feeling like pawns at the negotiating table between corporations. A universal healthcare system is the only way to fully ditch Americans’ fear and anxiety over who can and can’t access affordable healthcare coverage. 

Katrina Ray-Saulis is a Maine writer and avid knitter. She has a BFA in Creative Writing from the New Hampshire Institute of Art. She and her wife live in a 200-year old house that was once owned by the local undertaker.

Beacon, April 8, 2022,

House Democrats to Hold First Medicare for All Hearing Since Pandemic / by Julia Conley

Protesters supporting Medicare for All hold a rally outside PhRMA headquarters April 29, 2019 in Washington, DC. The rally was held by the group Progressive Democrats of America. (Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images)

“Congress must implement a system that prioritizes people over profits, humanity over greed, and compassion over exploitation,” said Rep. Cori Bush.

Two years after the Covid-19 pandemic suddenly left an estimated 14.6 million Americans without employer-sponsored health insurance due to economic shutdowns and layoffs, the House Oversight Committee next week will hold the first hearing since the pandemic began on Medicare for All, with witnesses expected to testify on numerous ways the public health crisis has made the need for such a system clearer than ever.

Committee Chair Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) will be joined Tuesday by Rep. Cori Bush (D-Mo.) in leading the hearing, which will be the third congressional ever to focus on Medicare for All.

Several progressive lawmakers, including Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), and Jamaal Bowman (D-N.Y.), are also members of the committee.

Medicare for All advocate Ady Barkan, who suffers from ALS, is set to testify at the hearing, along other witnesses including with emergency physician Dr. Uché Blackstock and economist Jeffrey D. Sachs.

The hearing will focus partially on how universal healthcare coverage, with all types of medical care free at the point of service as it is in other wealthy nations, would help close health disparity gaps for people with disabilities, people of color, low-income and poor people, and other marginalized groups.

According to a report released just before the pandemic by Physicians for a National Health Plan (PNHP), Hispanic and Black Americans have significantly higher uninsured rates, at 19% and 11%, respectively, than white Americans, 8% of whom are uninsured.

Black Americans are also twice as likely as white people to die of diabetes, 22% more likely to die of heart disease, and 71% more likely to die of cervical cancer.

In the country’s healthcare system established for all veterans, though, Black men are significantly less likely to develop heart disease, while high-quality health coverage erases nearly half the racial disparities for women with breast cancer.

“This policy will save lives, I want to make that clear,” Bush told The Nation on Thursday. “I hope this hearing will be one more step forward in our commitment to ensuring everyone in this country, and particularly our Black, brown, and Indigenous communities, have the medical care they need to thrive.”

In addition to showing how quickly a for-profit healthcare system—in which medical coverage is tied to employment for more than half the country—can leave millions without care, progressives have said since the pandemic began that the crisis demonstrated the need for Medicare for All in other ways.

As Common Dreams reported in 2020, for-profit health insurers have illegally hit Americans with surprise medical bills for Covid-19 testing and treatment, with some being billed for thousands of dollars for services advertised as free—and necessary for public health.

“Americans deserve a healthcare system that guarantees health and medical services to all. Congress must implement a system that prioritizes people over profits, humanity over greed, and compassion over exploitation,” Bush told The Nation.

The announcement of the hearing comes two weeks after House Democrats pulled $15.6 billion in pandemic response funding from an omnibus spending bill, a move that forced the federal government to end coverage of Covid-19 tests and treatment for uninsured Americans.

Meanwhile, the Biden administration is moving ahead with a scheme to privatize the existing Medicare program, continuing an experiment first pushed by former Republican President Donald Trump.

In the Senate this week, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) announced that he soon plans to reintroduce a Medicare for All proposal. Next week’s hearing will consider a shift to the Medicare for All proposal put forward in the House by Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.).

Marking the twelfth anniversary of the Affordable Care Act, Social Security Works executive director Alex Lawson said Wednesday, “It is more clear than ever that we need improved and expanded Medicare for All.”

Common Dreams, March 24, 2022,