First public hearing for Mainers on healthcare, drug costs
Monday, September 25, 2023
Maine's new Office of Affordable Health Care holds its first public hearing this week, and people are being strongly encouraged to participate.
Health insurance rates are increasing next year, and Mainers - like all Americans - continue to pay some of the highest prices in the world for prescription drugs.
Ceilidh Shea, policy advocate with the nonprofit Consumers for Affordable Healthcare, said the hearing is a chance for Mainers to help lawmakers better understand their healthcare needs.
"Creating a playing field where we're all on the same page," said Shea, "in terms of what's actually going on and what is actually creating these barriers for Mainers, will be really exciting."
The hearing takes place this Wednesday in Augusta, but those who cannot attend can submit comments via email by October 6.
The burden of medical debt remains a top concern for Mainers - as surveys show nearly half of all households in the state have debt tied to hospital stays, diagnostic testing or emergency room visits.
Shea said Mainers forced to make debt payments must often cut back on their own prescription drugs and other vital necessities.
"Food, gas, heat - especially heat in the winter," said Shea, "basic day-to-day things that we all need are heavily impacted by medical debt."
Shea said most Maine households believe they're just one major medical event or illness away from financial disaster, as medical debt erodes their paychecks and savings.
She said this week's hearing is the first of many to come to help create a better and more affordable healthcare system.
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