AUGUSTA — Vowing that Maine workers and their children must no longer be priced out of health care insurance coverage, Green independent gubernatorial candidate Pat LaMarche unveiled a comprehensive insurance plan Thursday she promised would provide coverage for all of the state’s residents.
The strategy, which borrows heavily from data and recommendations submitted by the Maine Health Care Reform Commission, is a $3.5 billion proposal funded chiefly by the state’s private employers and Medicaid and Medicare. Current state health care insurance costs would be shifted to the new plan and the remainder of the costs would be covered by the federal government.
“A lack of health care insurance in this state means that you have a 25 percent higher chance of dying — not of being sick, not of being temporarily injured — dying,” LaMarche said. “If I gave you a 1-in-4 chance of walking outside and getting hit by a car and killed, would you think that maybe you’d like to walk outside?”
The plan is expected to be the campaign cornerstone for LaMarche, who also received a boost Thursday with the release of a poll from Strategic Marketing Services of Portland. In a statewide survey of 400 residents, the poll gave LaMarche 4 percent of the gubernatorial vote, a slight increase over other samples. The candidate needs to obtain 5 percent of the vote in order to allow the Maine Green Party to be reinstated as an official political party in Maine.
The poll showed incumbent independent Gov. Angus King holding a commanding 60.8 percent of the vote; Republican nominee James B. Longley Jr., 12.8 percent; Democratic candidate Tom Connolly, 6 percent; and independent Maine Taxpayers Party candidate Bill Clarke, 1.8 percent.
The survey indicated that 14.8 percent of those sampled were undecided. The poll had a statistical margin of error rating of 5 percent. Like LaMarche, Connolly must also return 5 percent of the vote in order to have the Democratic Party retain its official party status. Skating so close to the edge in the poll, Connolly said Democrats shouldn’t panic yet.
“But they should be paying attention,” he said. “Now is the time for all good men — and women — to come to the aid of their party. No kidding!”
Meanwhile at Cony High School, LaMarche was detailing her health care insurance plan which she dubbed “Larry’s Plan for Maine” after Larry Sawyer, a Bucksport boy with a birth defect that has prevented his family from obtaining affordable health insurance.
Private employers would contribute about $1.226 billion through payroll deduction on a sliding scale ranging from 5 percent to 12 percent of the employee’s wage. Businesses which employ fewer than 19 employees would pay 5 percent of gross annual wages, while businesses with more employees would pay an increasing percentage up to a maximum of 12 for employers with 1,000 workers or more.
Maine now pays $80 million for state employees and others covered under its health care plan and would continue to do so under “Larry’s Plan.” Federal Medicaid and Medicare payments for Maine would be paid directly to the plan in a lump sum of $1.3 billion while the additional federal funds would cover the remaining $840 million of her plan, said LaMarche. Those additional federal funds weren’t detailed in the plan released Thursday.
LaMarche said her plan would eliminate a middleman in the form of insurance agencies she accused of making enormous profits at the expense of Maine companies and their employees. The plan would also boost economic growth, she said, when new businesses chose Maine because of its innovative health care plan.
As governor, LaMarche would be forced to deal with a powerful health insurance lobby that has considerable clout in the State House in order to get her plan enacted. Rather than confront the lobbyists, she said she would go directly to the people.
“The people will call their legislators and the legislators will listen to their people instead of the lobbyists,” she said.