Maine health providers from across the state spoke in Lewiston Friday to denounce the Senate health care bill and urge Sen. Susan Collins to oppose it.
A Portland family physician, Dr. Sam Zager, said the Senate bill will cut off care for patients. "I think this gets to the core of what it means to have a civilized society," he said. "Are we going to turn people out? Are we going to toss them off the ship and let them drown at sea? Or are we going to acknowledge that we have a responsibility for the welfare of those around us?"
The Senate bill would partially cut funding for the Medicaid program, which pays for the majority of long-term care costs for seniors and people with disabilities.
Other provider objections included saying the bill would be financially devastating for both patients and Maine's health care system. Dr. Elizabeth Rothe of Lewiston says many Mainers will lose insurance.
"Our nonprofit hospitals will continue to treat patients regardless of their ability to pay. But they're consequently going to see large increases in the amount of uncompensated care that they give," Rothe said. "This is going to lead to bigger budget deficits, it's going to lead to hospital cuts, and potentially closures."
At a press conference in Lewiston, obstetrics nurse Jaime Johnson, who practices in Norway, said she's concerned for her patients and for her 7-year-old son, who was born with congenital heart disease.
"From the moment that he was born, Fin was a pre-existing condition and he will be one for the rest of his life. He is one of 229,000 Mainers who bear such a title," said Johnson.
The Senate health bill would weaken protections for people with pre-existing conditions.
Also at a press conference, rheumatologist Dr. Chuck Radis said the health care proposal would cause millions to lose insurance. "We need to improve the Affordable Care Act rather than replace it with failed strategies that the rest of the world has moved on," he said. "Health care is a right in the industrialized world, and it's becoming a right in many countries that are not industrialized." The Senate bill would allow insurance companties to charge older people five times more than younger consumers.
The group Maine Providers Standing Up for Health Care is urging Collins to vote against the bill, and to press her Republican colleagues to do the same.