Democratic Party
Says Bruce Poliquin "voted to strip 117,000 Mainers of their insurance."

Maine Democratic Party on Monday, October 1st, 2018 in a mailer

Did Maine's Bruce Poliquin vote to strip 117,000 people of health insurance?

Rep. Bruce Poliquin, R-Maine, speaks at a news conference at Bath Iron Works in Bath, Maine, Friday, Sept. 29, 2017. (AP)

Democrats are latching onto Republicans’ voting records on health care as a springboard to criticize their midterm opponents.

The Maine Democratic Party picked up on that argument in a mailer on the U.S. House race in the state’s 2nd Congressional District between Republican incumbent Bruce Poliquin and Democratic challenger Jared Golden.

The mailer claims that "Bruce Poliquin’s dangerous votes to cut health care coverage harm Maine families." It goes on to say that Poliquin "voted to strip 117,000 Mainers of their coverage."

The attack is based on Poliquin’s votes to repeal President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act and replace it the with the Republican-backed American Health Care Act, which Poliquin voted for in May 2017.

Let’s take a look at the estimates for Maine.

Where does the 117,000 figure come from?

When we checked with the Democrats, party spokesman Chris Glynn pointed to a Portland Press Herald story that references an analysis published in May 2017 by the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank.

The center came up with a state-by-state estimate of coverage losses based on a report by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. The latter report found that the American Health Care Act would increase the number of people who are uninsured by 23 million in 2026, compared to the ACA.  

The center calculated that approximately 116,700 Mainers would see a net loss in insurance coverage under the plan by 2026.

Here’s how that breaks down: 57,300 fewer Medicaid recipients, 11,900 fewer people with employer-based coverage, and 47,500 fewer people with insurance obtained through the individual marketplace.

The combined total of 116,700 represents about 9 percent of the state’s population.

But the number is a bit inflated

The ad is based on findings of a liberal-leaning group, so we contacted other research organizations considered more moderate, such as the Urban Institute’s Health Policy Center.

The institute produced its own study of the state-by-state implications of the AHCA. Its prediction of uninsured Mainers was half as much as the Center for American Progress.

In the report, the Urban Institute estimated that by 2022, Maine would experience an increase in the uninsured by 56,000 people.

Urban Institute fellow Linda Blumberg couldn’t say exactly how the center divided up the CBO data, but explained that her organization got its estimation from a simulation that showed 23 million more people uninsured under the AHCA by 2022.

The estimated effects by state varied significantly in terms of numbers and percentages, Blumberg told PolitiFact.

This is a function of the distribution of health insurance coverage in each state, distribution of income, and a variety of other factors related to the population and how it varies by geographic location. In general, she said, states that had gained the most coverage under the ACA were estimated to lose the most under the AHCA.

Blumberg pointed out that while CAP’s estimation is higher, both organizations find that large percentage increases in the uninsured would have occurred under the AHCA in the state of Maine, had it passed.

The Kaiser Family Foundation, also estimated that premiums would have likely gone up in large swaths of Maine (particularly in Poliquin’s district, which encompasses the entire portion of the state north of Portland and Augusta) under the AHCA, thus pricing many Mainers out of insurance.

The way the figure is presented

The mailer makes a blanket statement saying that Poliquin’s vote was to "strip" 117,000 Mainers of health coverage.

It would be more accurate to say that, according to the Center for American Progress, 117,000 people could either lose their coverage, see a rise in premiums and be priced out, or be forced into an exclusion — which would limit coverage for a particular condition, but not coverage for those people entirely.

Another critical part of the coverage losses in Maine would likely lie in the Medicaid cutbacks of the AHCA, which was estimated to be cut by $880 million over a 10-year span.

According to the Portland Press Herald, about 75 percent of Medicaid recipients under the state’s "MaineCare" program are children, low-income senior citizens who qualify for both Medicaid and Medicare, and the disabled.

Our ruling

The Maine Democratic Party said Poliquin voted to strip 117,000 Mainers of their insurance.

The group refers to his votes to repeal Obamacare and replace it with the Republican-backed American Health Care Act.

The 117,000 figure comes from an analysis by the liberal Center for American Progress. It is the highest of estimates we’ve found.

The ad’s language would lead the reader to believe that Poliquin literally voted to strip 117,000 Mainers of coverage, and that all would lose their coverage automatically. This is misleading.

The statement is partially accurate and needs additional context, so we rate it Half True.

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Half True
Says Bruce Poliquin "voted to strip 117,000 Mainers of their insurance."
In a mailer
Tuesday, October 1, 2019