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Autumn 2010 Newsletter

CAHC Celebrates Six-Month Anniversary of the Affordable Care Act

September 23 marked the six-month anniversary of the Affordable Care Act, passed by Congress and signed into law by President Obama on March 23.

To read more about the new provisions now in effect, click here for a full list of new consumer protections or here to read our blog post on the anniversary.

What provision will be most beneficial to you and your family? Let us know if you have a story to share by sending an email to consumerhealth@mainecahc.org

DHA is Open for Business! New Options Available for Part Time Workers!

The Dirigo Health Agency (DHA) recently re-opened enrollment in DirigoChoice and announced that it will not raise its rates in the non group market in January even while its competitors’ premiums are rising by double digits. DirigoChoice is offered by the non-profit Harvard Pilgrim Health Care and represents approximately 16% of the non-group market in Maine, bringing competition to the State. The Agency’s funding will allow an additional 1,500 individuals and their families to be covered by DirigoChoice.

CAHC has been reaching out to Maine businesses of all sizes to inform them about the new voucher program that allows them to offer health insurance coverage to their part-time and seasonal workers. The program allows employers to offer health insurance to part-time and seasonal employees that: earn less than $32,500 annually, work between 10-35 hours/wk annually, live and work in Maine, and have been uninsured for at least the previous 90 days before applying. The only cost to employers is a contribution of at least 5% of the employee’s monthly premium.

The Dirigo Health Agency (DHA), who administers the program, received a federal grant from the Human Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) to fund this program until 2014, when the State Exchange becomes operational.

For more information about Dirigo coverage options, visit the DirigoHealth website or call DHA at 1-877-892-8391.

Also check out this Letter to the Editor by Ricetta’s owner Ron Stephan for his take on the new voucher program and its benefit to his employees.

Giving People Hope

From the HelpLine: We recently heard from a family whose daughter was severely injured in a freak accident. She subsequently became too disabled to work and is now mostly too sick to get out of bed. Her parents began supporting her and paying for a separate insurance policy for her so she could access therapies and medications she needed. Last year they purchased a short term policy but weren’t able to renew it, and other options are very expensive. They applied for MaineCare for her but were denied. Unfortunately, because this woman is now 27, she is no longer able to stay on her parents’ plan (as part of the Affordable Care Act) and her family is feeling financial strain. The dad has called the HelpLine several times recently and HelpLine staff has coached him on which category of MaineCare she needs to apply for and provided tips on the application process. This family is under great stress and is very grateful that the HelpLine could offer guidance on how to get coverage for their daughter during such a difficult time.

Have a question of your own? Call the free and confidential CAHC HelpLine: 1-800-838-7476

CAHC and Partners Host Strategic Planning Retreat; Welcome HHS Regional Director

HHS Regional Director, Christie Hager

HHS Regional Director,
Christie Hager

Together with partners, the CAHC Coalition held its annual strategic planning retreat on October 15th.

We were pleased to welcome Christie L. Hager, J.D., M.P.H., Regional Director, Region 1 US DHHS, as the keynote speaker. Director Hager’s remarks were followed by a panel of Maine experts, including DHA Executive Director Karynlee Harrington; Robert Wake, General Counsel, Maine Bureau of Insurance; Tony Marple, Director of MaineCare Services; and Rep. Charlie Priest (Brunswick), member of the Legislature’s Joint Select Committee on Health Care Reform Implementation and Opportunities. Each of our speakers echoed the retreat’s theme of “Health Care Reform: We’re Not Done Yet,” and emphasized the many opportunities and challenges that lie ahead. Approximately 45 advocates, policymakers, and community members attended the morning program.

During the afternoon, advocates discussed forming a new Alliance to support health care implementation efforts and specific policy areas to focus on during the upcoming legislative session.

 

CAHC in the News

September 19 Lewiston Sun Journal New Day for Dirigo? Insurance plan gets new funding, but critics are skeptical by Bonnie Washuk 

September 23 MPBN Health Reform Protections Kick in Todayreported by Anne Mostue

October 14 MPBN Gubernatorial Candidates Spar over Hospital Reimbursements reported by Susan Sharon

October 16 Kennebec Journal Herculean task ahead in making reform real by Matthew Stone

October 25 Kennebec Journal Federal reform to be similar to DirigoHealth by Mechele Cooper

October 25 Kennebec Journal and Morning Sentinel Until Federal Health-Care Law Kicks In…Transition period brutal for many employees Employers will pay less of a share, employees more by Mechele Cooper

November 15 Portland Press Herald Maine Voices: It’s time for Maine parties to get together on affordable health care by Joseph P. Ditré

December 1 Bangor Daily News Get behind health care by Joseph P. Ditré

Affordable Care Act Presentations

Andrea also gave an informal talk at the Common Ground Fair in Unity

Andrea also gave an informal talk at the Common Ground Fair
in Unity

CAHC continues to provide public education to various groups around the state about the new federal health reform law. In September, in partnership with the Maine Parent Federation, Andrea Irwin presented to the Maine Alliance of Family Organizations, the York County Community Collaborative Board for Wrap Around Services, and a regional group in Bangor of persons with disabilities, their parents, law enforcement and advocates.

Andrea also joined State Rep. Emily Cain (Orono), a member of the Legislature’s Joint Select Committee on Health Reform Implementation and Opportunities to highlight the importance of the Affordable Care Act to Maine women to a group of students and faculty at the University of Maine in Orono. Together with the Maine Association of Non-Profits’ Public Policy Director Brenda Peluso, Andrea offered advice on how to access the small business tax credits to a group of non-profit employers and HR professionals by webinar.

Mitchell Stein gave a presentation to the AFL-CIO Board of Directors in October to explain the impact of the new law on employers.

Mr. Ditré Goes to Washington, CAHC Partners with Maine Attorney General to Offer Consumer Assistance Program

101019HHS.PressConfThe U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) awarded the State of Maine $135,000 to help fund its Consumer Assistance Program (CAP). A provision of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), the award was made to the Office of the Maine Attorney General who will work with Consumers for Affordable Health Care and the Maine Bureau of Insurance to assist in coordinating and operating Maine’s Consumer Assistance Program.

“It was quite an honor to be asked to speak at the news conference to launch Consumer Assistance Programs nationally and the Program in Maine,” said CAHC Executive Director Joe Ditré, who attended a press conference with HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius in Washington, DC to announce the grants nationwide. To read more about the CAP grant, click here.

CAHC Welcomes New Staff; Mia S. Poliquin Pross, Esq., Named Associate Director

mstein2Mitchell Stein has already become a familiar face to many in the health policy community. We are pleased to welcome him as a full-time member of our staff as our new Policy Director. Most recently, Mitchell has served as a member of the Board of Directors for CAHC as well as doing health care policy consulting work for CAHC and the Maine Council of Churches. Four years ago, Mitchell moved to Maine to work as the Director of Program Coordination for Health Dialog in Portland. Before that he worked in New York for Mercer Human Resource Consulting, Inc. in various roles including as their Global Intranet Director, as the Marketing Manager for the US Health Care Practice and as Director of the National Survey of Employer-sponsored Health Plans.

Mitchell is a Health Care Industry professional who focuses on strategy, marketing and product development. As a consultant for CAHC and others, he has spent the past 6 months studying the detail of the national health reform legislation. He also has extensive background working with various aspects of the heath care environment including insurance benefits designs. Mitchell lives in Cumberland Foreside with his wife Martha and dog Sheba. He holds both a BA and MBA from the University of Chicago.

GregWe are also pleased to welcome Greg White as our new public relations coordinator. Greg brings over eight years of public policy and advocacy experience with him to the job, working on both the federal and state levels. He was previously Political Director for Maine Change That Works, a non-profit grassroots advocacy group that worked extensively for the implementation of comprehensive health care reform and other issues affecting working families on the federal level.

Greg was also the Policy Analyst with the National Low Income Housing Coalition, where he staffed the Katrina Housing Group, the National Housing Trust Fund Campaign, and the Housing Plus Services Policy Committee. He also worked in a number of capacities for Senator Olympia Snowe in her Washington, D.C. office from 2002-2008, ultimately serving as her Legislative Assistant on housing/mortgage banking, community development, federal employee/labor union, postal/government reform, and Native American issues. A 2002 graduate from the University of Southern Maine with a BA in Political Science, Greg resides in his hometown of Portland.

Welcome Mitchell and Greg! Mia, congratulations on your new role!

Making a Difference

by Dorna Tracy, CAHC Volunteer

Dorna Tracy, CAHC Volunteer

Dorna Tracy, CAHC Volunteer

I was born in Gardiner, ME and graduated from Central Maine General Hospital School of Nursing in Lewiston, ME. I worked in various services in hospitals. I also did private duty, public health and occupational health nursing. I took a break from the medical field and worked briefly in retail, substitute teaching and insurance companies. I ended my career as an RN consultant in the field of occupational rehabilitation. Post-retirement I was on staff at the Maine State Museum in the education department.

I started volunteering when I was 9 years old when this country entered into WWII. I would go with my grandmother to the ladies club and fold bandages for the Red Cross. The ladies also taught me to knit and we made squares which they would sew together for blankets. I also made scarves. I have to admit mine were far from perfect…knit two, drop one, add three, etc. But, they assured me they would keep our military men and women warm. From that early
Dorna
Dorna Tracy, CAHC Volunteer
experience, I guess I was hooked on volunteering.

Some of the organizations I have been involved with over the years are:

  • Church, clothing and food banks
  • Blood drives
  • Child Care
  • Assessor for Meals on Wheels (25 years)
  • Maine State Museum
  • Episcopal Diocese of New Orleans working in the 7th and 9th wards helping to rebuild homes after Hurricane Katrina

Although volunteering has been a wonderful opportunity to meet people from all over the world, travelling around the State and the islands and a diversified learning experience, I always feel I have received more than I have given. My love of volunteering is secondary only to the wonderful years and challenges of raising my family of six. I feel very blessed to have met the people I have, seen the places I have been, and lived the experiences I’ve had.

Thank you, Dorna for your many volunteer hours for CAHC over the summer and all you’ve contributed to our mission!

Health Reform Implementation

CAHC staff continues to monitor the work of the Legislature’s Joint Select Committee on Health Care Reform Implementation and Opportunities, the Executive Steering Committee, and the Advisory Council for Health Systems Development.

Please note the following dates for these meetings:
Public Comment Opportunities to Advisory Council on Helath Systems Development (ACHSD):

  • December 7, ACHSD’s draft recommendations made public
  • December 14, 9am, Hearing and Public Comment
  • December 14, Written Comments DUE
  • December 17, Final ACHSD Meeting to Review Comments and Finalize Recommendations to Governor and Legislature

CAHC Executive Director Testifies Before Legislative Committee

CAHC was one of several advocacy groups invited to give testimony September 21st before the Joint Select Committee on Health Care Reform Opportunities and Implementation regarding the creation of the Health Insurance Exchange. CAHC Executive Director, Joe Ditré, provided testimony on behalf of consumers. For more about Joe’s testimony, please click here.

CAHC Salutes Maine Council of Churches and Maine Equal Justice Partners

Longtime CAHC partner Maine Council of Churches celebrated social justice at its annual breakfast in Freeport on November 19th. CAHC Staff Mitchell Stein and Andrea Irwin attended and were thrilled to help honor MCC honoree

Maine Equal Justice Partners, another close, longtime partner of CAHC’s. CAHC was a gold sponsor of the event and Executive Director Joe Ditré was featured in a video tribute to MCC. Joe echoed the sentiments of many others who sang the praises of MCC and their important work on social and economic justice, including access to health care.

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