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NE Advocates Hope Next Debate Keeps Focus on Dueling Medicare Plans

October 15, 2012

AUGUSTA, Maine - It was the subject of heated exchanges in the vice presidential debate, and advocates in New England and the nation are hoping both parties' dueling health-reform plans get even more serious scrutiny in Tuesday night's Obama-Romney rematch. During the vice presidential debate, Republican nominee Paul Ryan accused the current administration of having an "Obamacare board" that would "lead to denied care for current seniors."

Ned Helms, director of the Institute for Health Policy and Practice at the University of New Hampshire, says quite the opposite is true, as the Affordable Care Act expands to reach more Maine residents of all ages.

"Businesses are getting rebates for the premiums that they pay. Kids with pre-existing conditions are now being covered. People see it in their day-to-day lives. It's very real for them. It's about time that it became real for the politicians."

Romney has indicated there are "some parts" of the Affordable Care Act he would like to preserve, but he has yet to be specific as to how his plan would pay for them. Romney and Obama meet again on Oct. 16 in New York to debate foreign and domestic policy.

Romney says repealing the Affordable Care Act is a top priority. Marc Steinberg with Families USA says that move would cut a valuable health benefit for hundreds of thousands of Maine residents.

"Last year, 157,500 Mainers with Medicare - that's seniors and people with disabilities - got free preventive health-care services. Under the Romney plan, Medicare would again start charging cost-sharing for these services."

Steinberg adds that more than 12,000 Maine residents stand to lose the help they are currently getting with prescription drug costs. He says the average value of that help, under the Affordable Care Act, was $536 dollars for folks on Medicare in Maine last year.

Mike Clifford, Public News Service - ME