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Office of Affordable Health Care holds first ever public hearing

The state's newly created Office of Affordable Health Care held its first public hearing today, highlighting the barriers that block access to medical care.

Helen Roy with the advocacy group Consumers for Affordable Health Care cited several examples of Mainers who are struggling with the costs, at the expense of their own health.

"Anne from Kennebec County was prescribed an inhaler to help control her asthma, which would cost her over $100 a month, even with insurance," Roy said. "She could not afford the inhaler and is going without."

Advocates outlined a wide range of barriers that prevent Mainers from accessing health care.

Alex Carter from Maine Equal Justice said that while progress has been made in removing some of those barriers.

"There are still a group of people who are categorically excluded from utilizing Maine Care benefits based solely on their immigration status," Carter said.

Other testified that while some immigrants are eligible for affordable health care options, the application process is slow and complex.

The agency is taking written public comments about personal experiences with barriers to accessing care through Friday, October 6th.

Kaitlyn Budion is Maine Public’s Bangor correspondent, joining the reporting team after several years working in print journalism.