Health Insurance Marketplace Opens for Business Today

Christie Hager, Regional Director, Department of Health & Human Services, Boston Office, Speaks at Bell Buoy Park This Morning

By Carol McCracken  (Post # 1,535)

Today, October 1st,  marks the first day that the uninsured can sign up for health insurance under the Affordable Heath Care Act and a coalition of groups hosted a press conference this morning on the waterfront to urge the uninsured to do just that.  We are open for business and there are many people in the State of Maine who are available to assist you with this was the message, although the actual benefits do not take effect until January 1, 2014.

For those using the Internet, please visit HealthCare.gov or call 1-800-318-2596 for information about all the plans available to Maine residents.  Although not everyone needs to do it today or tomorrow, the uninsured were encouraged to sign up in the near future.  There will be glitches to start with, but the uninsured are encouraged to keep trying until they are successful.  The uninsured have until December 15th to sign up for the program.  Under the leadership of conservative Maine  Governor LePage, the state decided not to mount its own state health exchange.  Rather, it is run by the Federal government from the Boston office.

In his introductory remarks, Mayor Michael Brennan said that every l/2 hour someone dies in this country because they don’t have health insurance.  “When people have access to health insurance, they have better outcomes,” said the Mayor who is a cancer survivor.  “No one ever asked  me what kind of treatment or care I would receive.  Every citizen in Portland and Maine deserves the same care and treatment I received.”

Christie Hager, Regional Director, for the Department of Health & Human Services Department, Boston office said:  “We’ve spent a lot of time educating the public about all the new benefits here.  This gives a new point of implementation – it gives the public a single point to explore options for health care.”  “I’m a physician and I’ve waited for this for 35  years.  It’s terrible to treat someone without insurance.  Let’s hope those days are gone,” said Wendy J. Wolf, MD MPH and President of the Augusta-based Maine Health Access Foundation (MEHAF).  “There is a lot of work ahead of us.  A lot of people don’t know about the marketplace.  We need to change that story.”

In summing up, Mayor Brennan said that this bill will have a real economic impact as people have more access to health care.  He recalled how Maine Medical Center, Portland, had to lay off staff several months ago because of the large number of charitable coverage it gives to the uninsured.   “This will help that situation,” he added.