Obamacare repeal threatens rural hospitals

We all can guess what will happen to the 80,000 Mainers who obtained medical insurance under the Affordable Care Act when the Republicans repeal it. Our neighbors, friends and family members who received coverage as a result of the act will go without medical insurance, jeopardizing their health and their pocketbooks. That much is clear.

But I never really thought about the impact of repeal on Maine’s rural hospitals and their communities until I heard a Maine Public report about a meeting that hospital administrators from rural communities had with U.S. Sen. Angus King.

One hospital CEO predicted that repeal of the act would be devastating on his hospital, where 8 percent of its patients are covered by the act. Providing care to newly uninsured patients will increase costs for hospitals, forcing them to reduce or cut services leading to cuts in staffing.

Hospitals in many of our rural communities often are their largest employers, as is the case in Greenville. Layoffs in the health care sector will be devastating and will further delay the economic recovery of rural communities. The Maine Public report also explained that repeal of the act will threaten its drug discount program for rural hospitals, further eroding the financial stability of our hospitals.

Given this information, I wonder why our elected representatives are intent on repealing the act? I say improve it at the national level, don’t repeal it. Here in Maine, we should expand Medicaid to 70,000 eligible Mainers. Affordable health care for all, it seems to me, is essential for “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

John Contreni


Respect will of the voters

I am dismayed at the unwillingness of members of the Maine Legislature to honor the referendums passed in November by Maine voters. By clear majorities, Maine voters decided to legalize recreational marijuana, fully fund our public schools by increasing taxes on incomes over $200,000, raise the minimum wage for all workers gradually over the next few years and institute ranked-choice voting to eliminate the spoiler effect and encourage more third-party and independent participation in our elections.

On every single one of those referendums, the governor and legislators have done everything they can to delay, weaken and, if possible, undo those choices because they disagree with them. This is wrong.

There is an allowance in Maine law that gives legislators leeway to make necessary adjustments to referendums to overcome any omissions or problems that would prevent them from being carried out. Legislators have taken this law and used it to the extreme to try to undo the choices of the people, undermining its intent.

I can understand how reasonable people can disagree on whether these referendums will be good or bad for Maine. But we already had those debates over many months, and the voters made their judgment. To try to undermine these laws is a violation of democracy. Our representatives should respect the will of Maine voters.

April Thibodeau

Westport Island

Maine benefits from Obamacare

The Affordable Care Act is saving lives right now, and 20 million more people have health insurance today because of it. In fact, the rate of individuals uninsured has never been lower.

The Affordable Care Act is overwhelmingly popular in Maine, largely because it’s working. Small-business owners and employees are able to access health care at rates like never before. Fishermen in the Washington County and farmers in Aroostook County, retailers in downtown Bangor, bed-and-breakfast owners on the midcoast, loggers in Millinocket and construction workers in Madison are able to access previously unattainable health care.

Inadequate health care is bad for northern Maine communities. A lifetime without access to health care shortens the length of life and makes it harder for small businesses to survive.

Everyone should have health care. Everyone gets sick, and no one should have to take gamble on an unpayable hospital bill or an unchecked symptom.

Sen. Susan Collins voted yes on a procedural vote to harm the act, and the people protected by it. She needs to stand up for us in northern Maine.

Jerika Chasse


LePage’s civil rights lesson

It is good to know that Gov. Paul LePage has credited President Abraham Lincoln for freeing the slaves in his lecture on civil rights history. Perhaps he would be well advised to follow advice, often credited to Lincoln, that it is “Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt.”

It is disappointing that LePage, who has himself succeeded over adversities, is such a rabid partisan that he cannot acknowledge the tremendous achievements of Democratic U.S. Rep. John Lewis of Georgia and the other Freedom Riders in making America a better country for all Americans.

Jeffrey Lovit


Landfill expansion troubling

Maine is famous for its natural beauty. On the official city of Old Town website, the bulk of the description given of the community discusses Old Town’s natural resources, highlighting its “pristine” waters and famous smallmouth bass. After reading such a description, one might find the impending expansion of the Juniper Ridge Landfill surprising.

The proposed expansion area sits atop four different watersheds, eight identified wetland areas and several vernal pools through which pollutants could potentially make their way into the Stillwater and Penobscot rivers.

Landfills leak, and things go wrong. Everyone in Old Town and the surrounding areas have a lot to lose from this expansion. Increased pollution of the wetlands would lead to environmental, social and economic ramifications. We could see a decrease in water quality in four watersheds and acres of wetlands; an increase in mosquitoes, which have been shown to breed more prolifically in degraded wetlands; a decrease in healthy fish populations; fewer waterfowl and migratory birds. The list could go on forever.

Is this really the best place for a massive landfill? Casella would have us believe that the location is ideal, and perhaps it is for them. They have already established themselves in the city, and they have the space at Juniper Ridge. Given the track record of projects like this, Casella’s plan puts Old Town’s most valuable resource at risk. If the plan goes forward, I hope the city of Old Town will hold Casella to the highest possible standards.

Casey Wilkins

Old Town