Crowd shows anger at Anthem insurance session in Auburn

AUBURN — For more than three hours, they were angry and they were heard.

Amber Waterman/Sun Journal

Helen Ness, left, speaks about her struggles to find answers to heath insurance questions during a public forum on Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield's proposed narrow network for the upcoming Affordable Care Act health insurance exchange at Central Maine Community College in Auburn on Thursday evening. The panel included, from left, Assistant Attorney General Thomas Sturtevant, Bureau of Insurance Superintendent Eric Cioppa and Bureau of Insurance Deputy Superintendent Tim Schott. To see a video of the public's comments, visit sunjournal.com/anthemforum082913.

Hundreds of people packed Kirk Hall at Central Maine Community College on Thursday night for a comment session on Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield's controversial new insurance proposal that would force individual policy holders into a network with MaineHealth providers.

Under the plan, patients who bought individual policies after March 2010 could no longer see doctors at Central Maine Medical Center in Lewiston, Bridgton Hospital or Parkview Adventist Medical Center in Brunswick.

Speakers ripped Anthem and MaineHealth for proposing it and the state for considering it.

They questioned the increased drive times, abandoned long-term patient-doctor relationships, increased waits, risk of losing local jobs and having choice taken away.

Mary Dempsey said her mother, who has battled cancer, could have to leave CMMC, home to the Patrick Dempsey Center for Cancer Hope & Healing that her son helped found.

"My mother is a very strong lady, and to see her break down in tears because she might have to go somewhere else is not acceptable," Dempsey said. "Not acceptable."

Daniel Rausch, a medical oncologist, said CMMC is the only Lewiston hospital that offers radiation therapy. He'd have to tell sick patients to drive five days a week to Portland or Augusta.

"I don't know how that qualifies as comparable care," he said.

Allan Ingraham, recently retired head of vascular surgery at the CMMC heart center, said he was "disgusted and disappointed" that the state's second-largest metropolitan area was getting such short shrift.

"To coin one of the governor's famous statements, you should pass out some Vaseline to everybody in this area," he said. "It is ignoring all of the achievements that have happened at Central Maine Medical Center."

The state's first breast care center. The state's first helicopter service.

Comment after comment drew hoots and applause. Many CMMC employees and supporters in the audience wore lime-green "Please Keep Care Local" T-shirts. Another hundred people who couldn't fit in the auditorium waited outside in the hall.

The Rev. Naomi King drove her electric wheelchair to the front of the packed room and introduced herself as Stephen King's daughter. Her family, she said, has Anthem policies.

After her father's horrific car accident in 1999, "it was Bridgton Hospital that stabilized him and Central Maine Medical Center that treated him," King said. These changes would effect people who "helped him walk again and write great books and tell great stories."

She said she'd put off some care if forced to travel 90 minutes from Western Maine to see a doctor.

"It is going to increase suffering in our community, enormously and economically," King said. 

Bill Young, CMMC's former, longtime CEO, said he was "perplexed" that the state was considering the plan but understood why MaineHealth, Maine Medical Center's parent, wanted it.

In the 1970s, CMMC was small and Maine Med was huge. People drove there for specialized care. In the mid-1970s, Young said, CMMC made a concerted effort to grow, and every specialist hired drew patients away from Maine Med.

"It's very obvious from what we've done, we've never been a friend of Maine Medical Center," he said.

Things came to a head when CMMC decided to open its heart center. Maine Med's top cardiologists paid Young a visit.

"These men walked into our office here in Lewiston and told us we have absolutely no business 'fooling with their patients,' and that was their exact words. I'll never forget it," he said.

Ronald Reagan, Young said, called the Soviet Union the "evil empire" because it meant to do harm.

"I submit to you that Maine Medical Center, to the citizens of this region, to the providers of this region, they are the evil empire," Young said.

Lewiston Mayor Robert Macdonald said the hospital was the city's largest employer and he did not plan to see it lose any jobs.

"If you are going to play this game, that's fine, because I will keep going the distance," Macdonald said. "If it doesn't (work,) we'll go to step two. If it doesn't, we'll go to step three — I think that will get your attention."

He walked away from the microphone without elaborating.

Anthem spokesman Christopher Dugan said the proposed plan would keep rates 12 percent lower for individuals than they would be after new Affordable Care Act costs.

People would also still have a choice, he said. They could choose to buy insurance from someone else.

"It certainly is not for every single person," Dugan said.

There will be a formal public hearing on the proposal Monday, Sept. 9, at the Burton M. Cross Office Building in Augusta.

Superintendent of Insurance Eric Cioppa, who took in the hours of sworn comment Thursday, said he would rule on the proposal shortly thereafter.

"I won't sit on it long," he said.

The Lewiston session was the third and longest of the comment sessions, which made sense, Cioppa said. "I want to hear what people had to say."

The event ran so long that a planned Q&A session around the Affordable Care Act was put off for another night, to be determined.

kskelton@sunjournal.com

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Comments

Steve  Dosh's picture

Crowd shows anger at Anthem insurance session in Auburn

Kate , 11:11 am-ish hst ? Saturday
. . It's not that surprising . People know that the health care interests in the Great State of Maine appear to be or are in actual cahoots with your state government . They certainly are here in HI . This is best Obamacare ® calculator we have found , to date ---> http://www.webmd.com/health-insurance/health-check-health-insurance/defa... <---
Ask me what the third and fourth world nations did to thwart the pharmaceutical companies ( i.e., ' big pharma ' )
A: They just made the HIV\AIDS anti-retroviral drugs themselves
Ingenious
Happy Labor Day weekend y'all
hth , Dr. Dosh and ohana , HI, us of a

Kelsie Chamberlain's picture

Call it what you want!

This bottom line simply goes to greed. Weather it be big corporations, stock holders, unions, and most definitely insurance companies. Every one wants more and more for less and less. It is one heck of a future that our kids are gonna inherit.

Ed Enos's picture

Kathy Williamson

Unfort this is exactly ObamaCare in Maine. This "Narrow Network" dreamed up by Maine Health and Anthem is one of two insurance plans offered as an exchange. Unfort, this has the potential to make people shift their providers. It is already being rumored that Anthem will want to roll all their policies into this plan, including all the large policies that are written for large companies, schools etc. If that happens, I'm afraid CMHG will be, in very short order, be forced out of business. This would devastate health care for Western Maine if Bridgton and Rumford close. No one, not Stevens or MMC will have the capacity to cover all the people who use CMHG for services now.

KATHY WILLIAMSON's picture

Don't lay this on Obamacare.

Don't lay this on Obamacare. This is about greed and opportunism. There is NOTHING in Obamacare that requires this or even suggests it. Because conservatives as a group tend to believe whatever outrageous thing is told to them without checking facts, Anthem and Maine Med feel that they can get away with it and shift the blame to Obama.

FRANK EARLEY's picture

Just another case of being out of touch....

This whole idea, although thought up by Maine Med. is most likely the result of a huge insurance giant doing what it does best, earning money. Realizing that the big thinkers in this project live hundred possibly thousands of miles from Maine. You have to remember, these people are working with a road map, and calculator. Their only concern is shaving off money from existing plans. They start where the big money is and work their way down. Unfortunately for local people, Anthem sees the biggest opportunity for cuts at CMMC. What better way to save a ton of money with one swipe of the pen. Don't use CMCC. Simple as that.
I hope the local Insurance Commissioners will see the irony in all this and tell Anthem to stop worrying about the dollars, and pay attention to the patients. I seriously feel this wouldn't have happened if Maine had gone along with the expansion. I blame all this atrocity of health care, on only one thing "Greed". This company took advantage of the limited insurance pool in Maine, and saw profit, nothing more....................

Pat Morin's picture

anthem

When i retired from state they were thinking about changing plans. Some of the state has Aetna. I pay for a percentage as I didnt have enough time to get it free . But so glad I have a different insurance. Cant believe that this could happen to us. maybe businesses that have Anthem should switch let Anthem feel the crunch its making others feel by refusing service with dedicated providers.

Kelsie Chamberlain's picture

Free!

Why should any retired person get free insurance, it a major problem with budgets in this and other states to begin with! OH, i forget, must have been a union thing! Which is the other problem with this country! I am not angry at you or anything, I just have big issues with the whole union and free bit. Sorry if I came across as rude, was not my intent.

KATHY WILLIAMSON's picture

How is it free? it's part of

How is it free? it's part of their pay. In fact, when a company kicks your spouse off your policy and blames Obamacare, they are giving you a pay cut. Obamacare has nothing to do with it.

But I do agree that insurance should be un-tethered from the job. I think it would encourage entrepreneur-ism and help raise wages.

Pat Morin's picture

anthem whoops

I understand your comments and agree to some of it. State workers do get free medical , life and dental,ONLY if and when they have 10 yrs in. The good thing about my insurance is I have to pay for a percentage of it being retired early it helps defray costs. I would pay the same from the outside for HMO's with less coverage. And I believe that everyone should pay a percentage it would be less stress on state budget. It is a Union agreed plan. and unions arent that bad when you think of how employers can take advantage of their workers. I have worked for a major national employer with them and they protect rights. But i dont take you as being rude and appreciate your comment.

PHILIP LAINE's picture

Wouldn't surprise me that

Wouldn't surprise me that this is a done deal and Anthem is having these public forums to put up a good front.

MARYMARGARET NEY's picture

Local care is important for all

I remember many years ago when my aunt from Rumford needed critical cardiac care. At the time the only option was Maine Med, so she was transferred there from CMMC. Fortunately my sister lived in Portland at the time, so my uncle was able to stay with her until my aunt's passing. If she had been in Lewiston, both my aunt and uncle would have had the additional comfort of many more family members and friends. They would have made such a difference for them. Local care is crucial not only for patients but family and friends who can contribute so much to wellness.

ERNEST LABBE's picture

Welcome

Welcome to Obamacare. You wanted it you got it.

KATHY WILLIAMSON's picture

How is this related to

How is this related to Obamacare? No need to answer. IT ISN'T! God almighty I am so SICK of people like you who make things up that aren't true! Are you that kind of liar, or are you really stupid enough to believe that it has anything to do with Obamacare? It's one or the other, so which are ya?

Jim Cyr's picture

How is this related to

Obama/Boehnner care, try lack of " Free Market competition ". It's all about control !!

FRANK EARLEY's picture

Ernest, time to get the facts strait........

You almost got it right, you left out the word didn't. We don't have the full benefits of Obama care, Now we are seeing the dangers of vulnerability. Our Governor has decided to leave the State open to these types of scams.....................

Tobey Johnson's picture

I agree

Ernest, I 100% agree. I said the same thing last week when this story was printed about the meeting. I had a few disagree with me but truly this is a preview of what is to come.

Not true..

Corporations of all shapes and sizes have been trending on cutting benefits for the last five years, even before the onset of "Obama Care"..check it out for yourself if you care to know the truth..I have a strong suspicion that you probably won't check anything out though...sounds like the usual line we hear over and over again...you listen to what everyone says and never truly check out anything for yourself...get the facts on insurances...

KATHY WILLIAMSON's picture

Anthem and Maine med have

Anthem and Maine med have been trying to starve out CMMC for decades. If they want to use insurance changes as an excuse, then that's collusion and it's illegal. There is nothing in Obamacare that could cause it.

Steve  Dosh's picture

Yes ladies. .and . . .

Yes ladies. .and . . . genitals [ sic. ] . . ..and the business of America is . .business , after all is said and done
/s, Dr. Dosh , HI • usa
http://www.webmd.com/health-insurance/health-check-health-insurance/defa...
btw - CMMC and St. Mary's are darn good facilities . ..

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