A group of veterans and veterans’ families gathered Wednesday outside the Bangor offices of 2nd District Republican U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin to deliver more than 600 complaints from Mainers who say they are unhappy with Poliquin’s vote to repeal the Affordable Care Act.
The event was organized by the progressive Maine People’s Alliance to highlight the negative effect on a constituency that Poliquin says he values highly.
Dick Bissell says he served his country without any reservations, and believed that his health care needs would met by the Veterans Administration and the Affordable Care Act. But the Bangor vet says his hopes for ACA coverage were dashed after the president’s repeated efforts to repeal, weaken or revamp the program over the past 10 months.
“They want to see this health care law fail and in doing so they are literally playing politics with people’s health care,” he says. “What’s worse is that my congressman, Bruce Poliquin, has let this happen.”
Bissell says the best way that Poliquin could help the largest number of veterans and their dependents would be to join Republican U.S. Sen. Susan Collins of Maine in trying to preserve the ACA.
“When you’re deployed into a combat zone, you don’t think about politics — you do your job and you stay alive, and Rep. Poliquin needs to do his job,” he says. “He took an oath of office to ensure the general welfare of the people he represents, and that’s why I want him to speak up now while there is little time to join party partisan efforts to stabilize rather than sabotage the ACA.”
Bissell was among several veterans and veterans’ families who spoke out at the invitation of the Maine People’s Alliance, Mainers for Accountable Leadership, Maine Small Business Coalition and Common Defense.
Gale White, a retired naval officer and owner of the Lubec Brewing Co. in Washington County, says the VA can’t meet all the needs of vets in the U.S.
“We veterans rely on Medicare, Medicaid and, in my case, I rely on private insurance that I was able to access only through the Affordable Care Act,” he says.
According to a recent report from the RAND Corporation, the ongoing problems within the VA would worsen without the ACA. The report concluded that efforts to repeal or replace the ACA would likely increase the demand for service in the VA medical system and leave more veterans without insurance coverage.
Still, some of those very veterans showed up at the Bangor rally to defend Poliquin’s position on the ACA.
“I support Bruce Poliquin,” says Terry Hamm-Morris of Hermon.
Hamm-Morris says Poliquin has supported numerous efforts to improve the lives of veterans, citing the Choice Program that allows veterans to get health care closer to home instead of making long trips to VA clinics or hospitals.
“He’s tried very hard to help veterans. He fought very hard to get on the Veterans Affairs Committee. He’s done everything he can to help them. He’s kept the clinic up in Caribou. There’s another clinic over on the other side of the state. I’ve never known anybody who’s supported veterans better than he did,” she says.
A spokesman for Poliquin’s office said the congressman does not respond to paid political stunts such as the Bangor rally to preserve the ACA. Poliquin’s staff also emphasized that Poliquin, who serves on the House Veterans Affairs Committee, had voted for the GOP-led American Health Care Act, an unsuccessful piece of legislation that Sen. Susan Collins described as deeply flawed.