Saturday, December 7, 2013
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Evan McSwain, a cook at Selah Tea in downtown Waterville, has been uninsured for the last five years.
Staff photo by Michael G. Seamans
Meaghan Carlson, of Gardiner, at her office Thursday.
Staff photo by Andy Molloy
Waterville Public Library will host information sessions for residents seeking information about the Affordable Health Care Act at 2 and 5 p.m. Tuesday.
"When you hear health insurance options, people's eyes glaze over," Mills said. "It's such a complicated morass."
For 2014 coverage, residents will have until the end of March to sign up. About 125 "navigators" paid for through federal grants are helping people sign up for insurance all over the state, with many stationed at community health clinics.
Mills said health plans under the ACA will be more standardized than previously, with preventative screenings free, all plans containing certain "essential" benefits and a cap on out-of-pocket costs.
Still, despite improved health care coverage, a big unknown is whether Mainers' independent spirit will make it difficult to sign people up for benefits, experts say.
If the experience of Massachusetts fishermen is any guide, having affordable insurance available will reduce the ranks of the uninsured.
"The fishing industry in general has a lot of very independent people," said Brian Delaney, communications director of Massachusetts-based Fishing Partnership Support Services. The group won a $66,000 federal grant to help Maine lobstermen sign up for health insurance on the new marketplace.
Delaney said the rate of uninsured among Massachusetts fishermen has declined from 50 percent to 10 percent since the late 1990s. That was over the course of about 15 years, he said, so making inroads in the uninsured could take time; but Massachusetts did not have a comprehensive health care reform system until former Gov. Mitt Romney signed a law in 2006 that's similar to the Affordable Care Act.
He said Maine lobstermen are busy making their living at the height of the lobster season, so the efforts to sign them up for insurance won't begin in earnest for a few weeks.
"In Maine, we don't know yet. We don't know what the reaction is going to be," Delaney said.
Even so, some are expressing interest now, and below are the stories of those who may seek health insurance on the marketplace.
Evan McSwain, 28, who manages the kitchen at Selah Tea Cafe in Waterville, has been uninsured ever since he left a job in Boothbay Harbor that provided him with it five years ago.
McSwain has bounced around in restaurant jobs since he was 12. He moved to Waterville nine months ago, starting at the cafe a month later.
He's recovering from an opiate addiction, and said he pays for a $100 weekly counseling appointment himself.
"I'd love to have insurance," he said. "I have a weekly appointment at the hospital that I have to pay for out of pocket, and it's been very expensive."
After he went through a rehabilitation program for his addiction two years ago, McSwain said, his medical bills skyrocketed.
"I've dealt with some medical situations," he said. "That's why my bills are outrageous."
McSwain, who has stayed clean since entering rehabilitation and attends a weekly meeting at MaineGeneral Medical Center's Thayer Campus, said the meetings help him maintain his sobriety.
He works six days a week at Selah Tea Cafe and said it's the sixth day that pays for his weekly meeting.
He said he is optimistic that getting insurance will help his situation, yet he admits he's not sure whether it would cover his weekly meeting.
McSwain said he applied for MaineCare but expects little from that effort.
"I sent out the paperwork and was told the waiting list was ridiculous," he said.
McSwain, who lives in Waterville with his girlfriend, said while he admits he knows little about the health care changes, he's welcoming the opportunity to be insured.
"I'd love to have insurance again. I've been thinking about, but I haven't looked much into it," he said. "I need to start working on that."
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Erika Burkhart and her 18-month-old daughter, Lumi Stone, spend time together in their Portland home.
Maine Sunday Telegram photo by Amelia Kunhardt
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Artist Adria Moynihan Rusk and her husband, Bruce Rusk, are a middle-class family but haven’t had good health insurance for years.
Maine Sunday Telegram photo by John Ewing