Children’s advocates, parents call on Sen. Collins to oppose health care repeal

Health insurance hadn’t been a major concern for Katie Sherman until this December, when she suddenly found herself unemployed and no longer receiving employer-based insurance for herself and her young daughter.

“I had to get coverage through the health care exchange that would also cover my daughter’s hearing aids,” said Sherman. “She has to wear a device in each ear and they can cost upwards of $3,000. Without the coverage we have now, I don’t know how we could afford it.”

Sherman joined children’s advocates and policy experts at a press conference in Portland to call on Senator Collins to reject any attempts to immediately repeal the signature health care law without a viable alternative that continues to provide coverage for millions of Americans. Speakers highlighted the serious impact that health care repeal would have on thousands of Maine children and their families.

“If the ACA is repealed, it will put more families at risk than just those on the Marketplace,” said Kate Ender, Consumer Assistance Program Manager at Consumers for Affordable Health Care. “Families who get their insurance through an employer will also be stripped of all the protections provided under the ACA. This means free preventive care, like vaccinations and screenings for children, will be gone. Protections for people with pre-existing conditions will be gone. And guaranteed access to essential health services, like maternity care, will be gone. Maine families cannot afford to lose these protections.”

According to a recent report by the Maine Center for Economic Policy, 19,000 parents and 41,000 children in Maine stand to lose health insurance if the Affordable Care Act is repealed without an immediate replacement. An analysis from the Urban Institute estimated that nationally, 4 million children could lose access to health care, more than doubling the number of uninsured children by 2019.

“Out of all the indicators used to measure the wellbeing of children, one that has been an especially bright spot has been the percentage of children insured— which is now about 95% nationally. The Affordable Care Act has been a major reason for this improvement,” said Michael Petit of Every Child Matters, a national advocacy group for children, and former commissioner of the Maine Department of Health and Human Services. “Tens of thousands of Maine’s children are depending on Sen Collins to fight on their behalf and ensure we do not go backwards. We urge her to withhold her support for any measure that does not insure all children or that results in any loss of coverage to their families.”

The event comes after Sen. Collins introduced a framework for a replacement that would shift the decision of whether to keep or dismantle the health care law back to individual states. The proposal also repeals or weakens some patient protections required by the current law, including essential coverage for maternity care. So far the bill has failed to gain traction with Senators in either party. For Maine parents like Katie Sherman, the uncertainty about the future of their health care continues to loom.

“I am relieved that there was affordable health insurance for us, and that we don’t pay an additional premium because of my daughter’s condition, but I’m worried about what comes next. If congress moves forward with repealing the law, what will happen to us? What will happen to the medical care that my daughter receives? I worried not just for my family, but for the thousands of other families in Maine who are faced with this same uncertainty,” said Sherman.

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