Maine veterans, family members and health care advocates gathered outside of the Bangor office of Rep. Bruce Poliquin to call on the congressman to reject attempts by the Trump administration to undermine the Affordable Care Act, jeopardizing health care for millions of Americans, including thousands of Maine veterans and their families.
“We love this country, and that’s why we decided to serve. It’s also why we cannot be silent when those in our own government are relentlessly trying to undermine health care for Mainers to score political points,” said Dick Bissell, a retired nurse and veteran from Bangor. “Rep. Poliquin needs to get off the sidelines and speak up now, while there is still time, to join bipartisan efforts to stabilize rather than sabotage the ACA. The health care of thousands of Mainers and millions of Americans is at stake.”
Participants delivered more than 600 petition messages from service members, veterans, family members and other supporters from across the state. Speakers called out Poliquin for his vote to repeal the ACA and urged the congressman to put Mainers over politics.
“I asked my Representative Bruce Poliquin to explain why he voted to repeal the ACA. His vote threw over 60,000 of his constituents off of their health insurance. His response to me was to turn his head and walk away” said Valerie Walker, a Bangor resident and daughter of a Korean and Vietnam war veteran. “My dad put his life on the line to protect the people of our country. You can’t turn and walk away from your commitment to this country. He did his job and now Poliquin needs to do his and protect his constituents from this political sabotage.”
A 2014 analysis by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) estimated that only 40% of veterans were enrolled in the VA health care system. According to the Urban Institute, more than 400,000 veterans gained coverage under the ACA between 2013-2015, a 40% decrease in uninsurance.
Gale White, a retired naval officer and owner of the Lubec Brewing Company, spoke about how the ACA covers gaps in care for many veterans who can’t receive comprehensive services from the VA.
“Few civilians know that the VA covers only certain veterans and certain conditions. Many like me don’t qualify for VA benefits for our everyday health care needs. We rely on Medicare, Medicaid, and – in my case – private insurance through the Affordable Care Act,” said White. “Without health care through the ACA I never could have left my corporate job to start my own business. The ACA gave me that flexibility like it did for thousands of other small business owners across Maine. Rep. Poliquin’s vote to repeal health care and his refusal to stand up to this sabotage will only hurt our communities and the small businesses that serve them.”
The event comes as the Trump administration announced plans to slash the budget for ACA enrollment program by 72% and continues to threaten to cut off the funding that helps insurance companies reduce out-of-pocket costs for people which Health care analysts say will raise premiums, destabilize the markets and threaten people’s coverage. Earlier this month insurance giant Anthem announced they would no longer carry ACA plans in Maine citing “uncertainty in the market” due to attempts in Congress to repeal the landmark health care law.
“While the ACA is far from perfect, it has helped reduce the number of uninsured people in this country, including for many veterans who otherwise couldn't get care. When it comes to health care for Maine families, we cannot go backward,” said Bissell. “I didn’t serve our country to see people be forced to choose between putting food on the table or accessing life-saving medical care. This political health care sabotage has to stop.”