Bill would deny MaineCare to smokers

AUGUSTA (AP) — The assault on tobacco use is resuming on several fronts in the State House, including denying benefits for MaineCare recipients who smoke and restricting smoking in private clubs.

Details of those and other bills are not yet fleshed out, but sponsors say they want to reduce Maine's smoking rate and drive down taxpayers' costs of treating tobacco-related illnesses.

Sen. Thomas Saviello said Friday he decided to introduce a bill to keep people receiving MaineCare — the state's Medicaid program — from receiving benefits at the suggestion of a constituent who also works in a rural health care clinic.

Saviello did not identify the woman but said she's expected to testify in favor of his bill. He said she's troubled when she sees MaineCare patients who have respiratory problems and smoke heavily, because taxpayers are subsidizing treatment for illnesses that could be avoided.

Saviello said he's not sure how much money could be saved by not having to treat smoking-related illnesses, but "I suspect it could be pretty significant."

Saviello also said he's not out to punish smokers or tell them how to live their lives. Prospects of the bill are unknown just a few weeks into the session. But regardless of how it fares, Saviello said he wants to raise the point that taxpayers are paying a price in cases like the one his constituent outlined.

"I'm making a conversation I think needs to take place," he said.

Rep. Les Fossel of Alna wants to raise the minimum age to possess tobacco from 18 to 21. Fossel, a Republican, said that would address a rising youth smoking rate in Maine that was also highlighted earlier this week by the American Lung Association of Maine.

"If you don't get addicted before you're 21, you're apt not to get addicted," said Fossel, who also sees a connection between youth smoking and the ability of 18-year-olds who are in public schools to get tobacco products.

"How do you get it out of the schools? The answer is to raise the smoking age to 21, and we'll see if it works," said Fossel.

Rep. Anna Blodgett, D-Augusta, is sponsoring a bill to bar smoking in private clubs except for enclosed areas.

Current law prohibits smoking in most buildings open to the public, including restaurants and bars. However, private clubs, such as the Elks and American Legion, are not considered "public places" because they're only open to members and their invited guests, so smoking is allowed if the club so chooses.

Blodgett said the main reason for submitting the bill is that many veterans have health issues and can't be around smoke but want to be able to be active in club functions.

The lung association is pushing legislation to discourage youth smoking by raising Maine's cigarette excise tax, now $2 per pack, by $1.50 per pack to a total of $3.50. Supporters say the higher tax is the most effective way to discourage young people from smoking.

Gov. Paul LePage opposes tax increases. As a candidate for governor, he proposed a reduction in the cigarette tax if the state could make up the loss in revenue.

Anti-smoking advocates led by the lung association say Maine has the second-lowest cigarette tax in New England, behind only New Hampshire's $1.78.

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Comments

Amy  McDaniel's picture

Just one more control issue

I think it is ridicuous to expect that people will admit to smoking if they might lose maine care, anymore than you can expect that someone will admit to buying crack with TANF benefits. I think that something gets lost with educated people. Seriously our politions are educated people, yet the comfort they have been priviledged to has apparently cause a disconnect with reality. The "survival mode" that a lot of low- income Mainers are in would not make this a beneficial option. These people have higher levels of addiction for many reasons and this is not the way to treat the addictions. This is the way to make people sneakier about it. This will drive up fraud and open the door to creating a caste system right here in the good ole U.S. of A. You wil have those entitled to health care and those who are not. Then you will be denying coverage to future generations because of the actions of the parents. For instance, children born addicted will not be entitled to health coverage because their parents were addicts and the child's illness is a manifestation of that addiction. It won't stop with smoking; it will be obestity, depression, alcoholism, genetic risks for cancers, mental illnesses. This type of road is a slippery and dangerous one. I believe that positive reiforments are necessary for people to want to change their lives. First you start by offering an increase in benefits for those who do not use, Stipulations are placed on teh increased funding, such as, manditory random screening to maintain the benfit. If the client fails the screening, they lose the increase, but can not be denied the base benefit. There are other ways to handle this! Please put some though into it before you simply retaliate against the citizens of Maine for your own judgements.

Harold Hartley's picture

smoking

I see they talk about banning smoking in clubs, but they law that I have heard so much about which says smoking in public places is banned, but I noticed people are still smoking in public places such as sidewalks. Sidewalks are public places and they don't seem to care, but they stop public from smoking in places to eat, bars and other places. I would like to see the law stop the smokers from smoking while on sidewalks as I don't like the smell of the smoke I breath in when I go by them and I have breathing problems as it is.

DONALD FERLAND's picture

Can we say discrimination?

If this bill were to pass then the state would in fact be discriminating against an entire group of people. Not only that, if the state is so concerned about smokers and their health care costs then they could use the outrageous cigarette taxes to pay for the medical bills of smokers. The state had a settlement from the tobacco companies to help pay for medical bills, stop smoking aids, and education about the use of tobacco but where did that go??? MaineCare refuses treatment aids to help people stop smoking. If a doctor recommends one aid and its not on the accepted treatment list a person has to jump through hoops to just get denied the treatment recommended by their doctor. My question is when did the governor or other elected officials become medical professionals??? And if we are going to continue to discriminate against smokers then could someone tell me why my tax dollars are going to support people that have baby after baby after baby and yet refuse to learn how to speak English? Could someone tell me why my tax dollars are being spent on an education system that has an entire city school system failing to meet the educational standards? Could someone tell me why my tax dollars are giving tax breaks to businesses that refuse to let white Americans enter their establishments? I think Maine has bigger problems then whether smokers should lose their health benefits if they have state funded insurance.

RONALD RIML's picture

It appears the Republicans are "Big Government" after all......

And proud of it.

 's picture

I couldn't see the Feds able to target sin diseases

But it sure sounds like something a bible belt state would do... :(

 's picture

Your last name says it all!

Ya cause the Feds don't already do that.

RONALD RIML's picture

If you want to violate the Constitution, jackwagon

Have at it.....

Then they can simply sue - get both healthcare and monetary damages. And you can go back to being the Commissar of Prisons in Stalinist Russia.

Mike Dumas's picture

sure but......

I think it is something that should be considered, but at the same time, there should be something in the bill that will help the ADDICTED smoker to kick his/her habit.
Not just toss them out, but have a program that to help get them off the nicotine habit.
Give them a chance, work with them, then after that, if they can't or won't quit, then consider the extreme that is proposed.
We have other such programs for drug, alcohol addiction. It cracks me up that the smoking population is always at the "butt" end these decisions.

 's picture

Deny Healthcare?

You can't deny anyone health care in this country that is willing to pay for it themselves, yet.

 's picture

but notice that it's the

but notice that it's the REPUBLICANS are slowly inching toward 'death panels' Priceless!

RONALD RIML's picture

Truer words never spoken - (Except for the slowly!)

yet look at all the 'disagrees' - Whaada bunch of azzhats!!!

Richard Begin's picture

Maine care vs smokers

I think that this Proposed Bill makes great Sense. Why should Mainers foot the Bill for someone who places them selves at risk by Smoking? only to take advantage of Maine care or other health care programs. way to go Tom Governor King attempted this at one time and there was not enought support. But now I magine there will be much support. Smokers deserve no rights.

Mark Wrenn's picture

fat

Next, these geniuses should target the fat people who still eat!

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