CDC says Maine uninsured rate has hit an all-time low, but at what cost?

Good morning from Maine, where according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the percentage of people who don’t have health insurance has fallen to an historic low.

Maine’s uninsured rate of 8.8 percent in 2015, which was culled from the centers’ National Health Interview Survey, is below the national figure of 9.1 percent, which is also an all-time low.

“Our country ought to be proud of how far we’ve come and where we’re going,” said U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell in a written statement that attributed the low uninsured rate to the Affordable Care Act.

The data comes as the nation learns just how affordable — or not so much — private health insurance plans are for individuals. A study released in January found that the financial burden can be heavy, especially for people with significant medical needs and older people, some of whom pay nearly 25 percent of their income between their premiums and out-of-pocket costs.

Last week, insurers on the federal health insurance exchange that serves Maine announced that they are seeking double-digit increases in the cost of health insurance in 2017. The average proposed increases for individual plans, which face state- and federal-level approvals, range from about 14 to 24 percent, according to an article in the Bangor Daily News.

The survey data released this week found that about 62 percent of Mainers had private insurance coverage in 2015, and about 42 percent with public health plan coverage, such as Medicare or Medicaid. Yes, those figures add up to more than 100 percent, which I assume has to do with the survey’s “standard error” calculation. I’ve asked the CDC to clarify.

Why are you reading about health insurance costs in a political blog? Well, as you may have noticed there’s nothing more political than health insurance these days. — Christopher Cousins 

‘Clean’ money could come to Maine in support of minimum wage

With all the talk of “dark” or “dirty” money that will be spent on candidates and causes on this November’s election ballot, there’s news of a bit of “clean” money being put on the advocacy table. And when I say clean, I mean the money is coming from a soap manufacturer.

Here’s your soundtrack.

Dr. Bronner’s, a leading producer of natural soap in North America, announced Tuesday that it will spend $500,000 this year in support of efforts to raise the minimum wage across the country. In addition to the referendum this year that would raise the minimum wage in Maine to $12 an hour by 2020, Washington, Colorado, Arizona and the District of Columbia have ballot initiatives.

“When a person working 40 hours per week can’t cover the basic costs of living, there’s something deeply wrong with our economic system,” said David Bronner, the guy with the coolest title I’ve seen in a while: “Cosmic Engagement Officer (CEO).”

The BDN’s Darren Fishell asked Dr. Bronner’s through Twitter whether any of its cash will be coming to Maine. The company said it would be contributing to The Fairness Project.

The company has also created a pro-minimum wage label for its products, which you can see by clicking here. — Christopher Cousins

Quick hits

  • The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee continues its efforts to pressure Maine 2nd District Congressman Bruce Poliquin to state publicly to what degree he supports Donald Trump for president, which at the moment is the organization’s chief talking point against Poliquin’s reelection. The group produced a “Bruce, say my name” web video which you can see by clicking here. 
  • Republican U.S. Sen. Susan Collins of Maine has received the Jeane J. Kirkpatrick Statesmanship Award from the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, which according to a press release is a non-partisan organization that promotes pluralism, defends democratic values and fights terrorism. The award is named after the first woman to serve as a United Nations ambassador.

Reading list

Don’t dirty your dishes today

I need to check in on what “holiday” it is earlier in the morning. Usually, my wife, who has an app on her phone, lets me know if it’s something interesting. Yesterday she told me it was Brat Pack Day and suggested Daily Brief soundtracks. (Sorry, babe. There was the West Virginia Pepperoni Roll to fight.)

Today is National No Dirty Dishes Day. At first I was worried that this means I have to do the dishes, but no. It just means that we are to either eat all our meals out or use disposable dishes and silverware.

I already dirtied a coffee cup. I was thinking about having a piece of toast. Sigh.

It’s also National Cheese Souffle Day so I’m left wondering where I can find one of those. — Christopher Cousins


Christopher Cousins

About Christopher Cousins

Christopher Cousins has worked as a journalist in Maine for more than 15 years and covered state government for numerous media organizations before joining the Bangor Daily News in 2009.