Friday, December 6, 2013
The Portland Community Free Clinic caters to Mainers caught in the dreaded "doughnut hole" — earning too much to qualify for MaineCare but too little to buy health insurance.
"We are an essential safety net," said director Caroline Teschke, whose clinic serves about 600 people on a $100,000 budget culled from grants and with the help of volunteer doctors and nurses.
The Affordable Care Act — also known as Obamacare — was intended to reduce the ranks of the uninsured. But the law may not necessarily close the "doughnut hole," according to Teschke. The administration of Gov. Paul LePage resisted efforts to expand MaineCare, the state's Medicaid program, under the law. And a sizable population will remain who won't be able to afford subsidized insurance on the new health care exchanges that start on Oct. 1, Teschke predicted.
During a tour of the facility last week, U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-1st District, told clinic workers and volunteers that she's "thrilled" the clinic fills a needed gap in services, but that she wishes universal health insurance would make free clinics unnecessary. Pingree is married to S. Donald Sussman, majority owner of MaineToday Media, publisher of the Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram, Kennebec Journal and Morning Sentinel.
Meanwhile, the political battles about Obamacare will continue this month in Washington as some Republicans attempt to defund the controversial law even while Congress tries to work out a larger budget deal to avoid a government shutdown.
2nd District race taking shape
There were numerous additions and subtractions this past week to the Republican field of contenders for Maine's 2nd Congressional District. Here's a quick recap for those trying to keep track:
Republican Bruce Poliquin officially joined the race, while former Senate President Kevin Raye, of Perry, and Sen. Richard Rosen, of Bucksport, both told the Portland Press Herald that they intend to run as well. Blaine Richardson, of Belfast, had declared his candidacy earlier.
Meanwhile, Republican Rep. Alex Willette, of Mapleton, withdrew from the race; and former House Minority Leader Josh Tardy, of Newport, said he had decided not to run.
The Democratic field held steady at three declared candidates: Sen. Troy Jackson, of Allagash; Sen. Emily Cain, of Orono; and Alden Smith, of Sangerville. But with Labor Day coming, expect more announcements.
Other PPP poll results
The firm Public Policy Polling released the results of statewide polling gauging Mainers' approval or disapproval of elected officials. Following are the results of a few other questions PPP asked of 953 Maine voters:
• Forty-eight percent of poll respondents would legalize marijuana, compared to 39 percent who wouldn't and 14 percent who couldn't make up their mind.
• Fifty-four percent of Republicans polled would support impeaching President Barack Obama.
• If they had to choose, Mainers would rather move to Canada than to the South (meaning the Southern states, not Maine's southern counties), by a margin of 44 percent to 29 percent. The remaining 27 percent apparently didn't even want to entertain the thought.
• Stephen King may be Mainers' favorite home-grown horror author, but the Democrat might not want to challenge Republican U.S. Sen. Susan Collins next year (not that he is considering it). Collins won 54 percent to 31 percent in PPP's hypothetical showdown between the two Bangor residents. Of course, the U.S. Senate clerks also probably would prefer that outcome rather constantly having to figure out which "Mr. King from Maine" voted which way.
Portland Press Herald staff writer Joe Lawlor contributed to this report.
Kevin Miller — 317-6256