On May 4, the House of Representatives passed the American Health Care Act by a vote of 217-213, a significant step in the Trump Administration’s quest to repeal the Affordable Care Act, the signature achievement of President Obama’s administration. The bill is estimated to kick 24 million Americans off health care, according to estimates by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office.
In the week since, citizens have rallied in numbers against U.S. Representative Bruce Poliquin of Maine's second congressional district, whose yes vote came after weeks of hedging about his position — a dance which included, according to multiple reports, the representative hiding out in public bathrooms and re-emerging wearing ear-buds to obscure reporters' questions. The day after the vote, former State Rep. Diane Russell launched a public campaign titled “Anybody But Bruce Poliquin 2017.” By the end of day on May 9, Russell's campaign has raised nearly $9,000 for a mystery candidate to be named to run against Bruce Poliquin in the state’s second district in 2018.
Last week, Poliquin quickly took to the media to defend his vote, citing that AHCA would “only affect seven percent of the population” — about 80,000 Mainers. Other estimates suggest that more than 266,000 Mainers would lose coverage, or face dramatically higher costs, as a result of pre-existing conditions.
But it also would affect plenty of Mainers who would retain coverage. As Amy Fried writes on her blog Pollways (hosted by the Bangor Daily News), the AHCA would restore those providing insurance coverage through employer-based plans the ability to set lifetime caps on insurance coverage, a provision that had been prohibited by Obamacare. This would affect, as Fried writes, 47 percent of Mainers who receive insurance through employers.
As it stands, the AHCA would also eliminate the Medicaid Expansion to low-income healthy adults contained within the Affordable Care Act. Additionally, it could be devastating for those seeking treatment for addiction, a population which has reached crisis levels in Maine, because it penalizes those whose relationship to coverage isn’t stable by charging more for those who haven’t had coverage for two months or more. In some form or another, it also blocks access to health coverage for those with pre-existing conditions (or deregulates insurance companies’ ability to charge them exponentially more, which has the same effect).
It’s possible much of this will be moot, as much of this version of the AHCA could be changed over the next several weeks or months before it gets a vote in the Senate, where it would need 51 votes to pass (the GOP has a 52-48 majority in the Senate). By a Senate vote, one would expect many in Congress to have actually read the bill, which many Representatives in the House had not done upon voting on it on Thursday.
Maine Senator Susan Collins has come out against the current version of the AHCA, saying that "the Senate is going to start from scratch" on the plan. Collins would represent one of the bill’s most pivotal votes. Behind only Rand Paul (R-KY), Senator Collins is thus far the second-least likely Republican Senator to vote in accordance with the Trump administration.
KINDLING FUND GRANTEES MAKE HOT ART
Earlier in 2017, SPACE Gallery announced the recipients of the year’s Kindling Fund, an arts grant awarding more than $65,000 among 14 Maine-based projects.
Artist Vivian Ewing, whose project Wash and Fold Press was launched in accordance with the Fund application, says she’s excited for the opportunity the fund has given her to respond to needs in the arts community. Her project endeavors to help young artists by offering a facility for printing, binding, and publishing their works into books, and plans to publish a collection of women, queer, trans, and non-binary artists with the help of local art collective New Fruit, a previous Kindling Fund winner, in the fall.
“I’ve seen a lot of amazing work come in from the open call,” says Ewing, who adds that the artists’ submissions she’s received have reached her from all over the country. “I’m really excited to be working with a female graphic designer whose work I admire a lot.”
Originally from Martha’s Vineyard, Ewing graduated from the Maine College of Art in 2015.
Besides Ewing, the full roster of winners includes The Maribor Uprisings: A Live Participatory Documentary by Maple Rasza and Milton Guillen, which places its viewers in a series of real-time decisions in a protest in Maribor, Slovenia, in 2012. Daniel Quintanillia’s A Shared Space: A View Into the Somali Bantu Community explores five short-format virtual reality documentaries made by and with Lewiston’s Somali Bantu population. Leslie Ross plans to launch a Sound Improv Festival at the Cannery in South Penobscot. Artist Derek Jackson received funding for his Hi Tiger project to launch a TRUCK SHOW, incorporating live dance, bodily explorations, and pop music into a mobile installation. Dylan Hausthor’s WILT Press endeavors to collect a gallery’s worth of his and others’ Harmony Korine-influenced art photography into a bound publication. Elizabeth Atterbury is planning “The Number of Inches Between Them,” a site-specific installation and performance with Mainer Meghan Brady and New York artist Gordon Hall. Photographer Sean Alonzo Harris’s “Visual Tensions” is a fascinating photo project that pairs people of color with members of law enforcement. Nick Dalton’s “Project: HESPER” commemorates long-abandoned schooners in Wiscasset’s harbor with a sculptural installation. Galen Koch’s mobile project “The First Coast” collects sounds, stories, and images along Maine’s coast during their offseason. Jennifer Steen Booher courses a photographic exploration along the entirety of Mount Desert Island’s 120-mile coastline with “The Coast Walk.” Shoshannah White’s “CHATTERMARK” is a street art project imagining the melting ice caps within Maine streets. “Surface First Tilts West,” by Jordan Parks, livens up Chebeague Island with low-impact imagery. And Brian Doody pairs with Catie Hannigan for “We Wear The Same Clothes Every Winter,” a bound and gallerized collection of high-concept photography for working class and marginalized Mainers.
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