Rep. Poliquin flees retirement facility when seniors question his health care repeal vote

Rep. Poliquin flees retirement facility when seniors question his health care repeal vote

Maine Second-District Congressman Bruce Poliquin visited Nason Park Manor, a senior living community in Bangor, on Tuesday to hold a press conference on issues important to older Mainers. When seniors asked questions about his vote for the Republican health care repeal bill, however, he refused to answer and quickly left the facility.

“He was ignoring those questions, he wasn’t even responding to them,” said Nason Park resident Kathy Record. “Hundreds of thousands of people are going to be affected by this if it goes through. He’s really screwing people over and it’s not right.”

Record lost her own health coverage through Medicaid two years ago after Maine failed to accept federal funding made available through the Affordable Care Act to expand the program.

Protestors hold signs as Rep. Poliquin leaves an event at Nason Park Manor.

“I’m one of the lucky ones because I get a decent disability check and I have a part time job that’s helping me get by and I have Medicare now, but there are so many other people that don’t have that – children, mothers, parents, seniors, people with physical disabilities, mental health disabilities, they’re all disregarded.”

According to the AARP, the bill Rep. Poliquin supported would mean a 64-year-old Mainer making $25,000 a year would likely see an annual premium cost increase of $12,701.

The bill also cuts $800 billion from Medicaid, the primary source of funding for long-term care for seniors and Mainers with disabilities. It contains a nearly-equivalent tax break that predominately benefits the top two percent of income earners.

“I felt so bad, there was one lady who came in who was just crying because she has a son with disabilities and he doesn’t have health care or he’s losing it with the changes Poliquin is making happen,” said Record.

That woman was Valerie Walker, a senior and resident of Winterport who attended the event in the hopes of speaking to Poliquin about what cuts to Medicaid could mean for her son, who suffers from Klinefelter syndrome, a chromosomal condition, as well as diabetes, autism and PTSD.

“I take care of everything for him,” said Walker.  “I worry about what’s going to happen to him when I’m not around, and I worry he can’t get his medicine.”

Walker attempted to ask Poliquin about health care for her son and about a veterans’ benefits issue before the press conference, but instead of answering her, Poliquin questioned whether Walker lived in the building.

“If you’re not a resident… I think this is just for residents, isn’t that correct?” Poliquin can be seen asking in a video of the exchange as he attempts to avoid speaking with Walker.

Once he was told that the room, managed by the Bangor Housing Authority, was considered a public space, Poliquin sidestepped Walker and began his press conference.

After the presentation, in which Poliquin discussed a bill to sell federal buildings in order to give a one-time boost in Social Security payments, residents and guests again attempted to ask questions. The congressman didn’t answer any and quickly left through a side door.

“He said that he would answer questions after and instead he walked out the door and he didn’t answer anything,” said Walker.

Walker, who is involved with a local Indivisible group, said she has been trying to reach Poliquin for weeks. She has visited his office and made appointments with his staff only to have them cancelled. She’s disappointed that he continues to refuse to hold a public town to discuss an issue of such importance, especially to his older constituents and those who live in rural areas.

“I know quite a few people that are going to lose insurance. I mean, when you think of Maine, I think Washington County has at least 30% of people who are on Medicaid and it’s pretty much like that in all of our counties up here and hospitals are talking about closing because if people don’t have insurance they can’t pay for the health care that they’re giving them,” said Walker.

Among those with unanswered questions was Dr. Flavain Lupinetti, a cardiac surgeon at Eastern Maine Medical Center who had hoped to confront Poliquin about the potential effect of the health care repeal bill on his practice.

“I wanted to let Congressman Poliquin know how bad his vote for the AHCA hurts my patients. It hurts the older patients the most. It hurts my younger patients. It hurts my patients who get their insurance through the exchanges or through MaineCare or through their workplace insurance,” said Lupinetti. “Maybe I have a billionaire or two that I take care of. Maybe those patients benefit from Congressman Poliquin’s actions, nobody else. Congressman Poliquin is dangerous for seniors. He’s dangerous for Maine.”

According to Record, most of Poliquin’s audience wasn’t pleased with the abortive event.

“He was just being condescending and acting like he was supportive and was trying to say what people wanted to hear even though it was not true, and that’s the message most of the residents in there got,” said Record. “We were talking about it before he showed up and we knew that when Poliquin said that he was coming to make an announcement that it was going to be bullshit.”

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