Fifteen years ago I had a comfortable life and what most would describe as a great job, working for the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC. But I felt a pull to follow my dream of running my own business on the Maine coast, especially during those long, muggy summer nights in the capital.
In the years since we’ve made our home and family here, in many ways my dream has come true. We own and operate a bed and breakfast a few blocks from the water, just how I pictured things. As idyllic as that sounds, reality persists enough to keep me in the waking world. One harsh bit of reality conveniently absent in my dreams back in Washington was the difficulty small business owners have finding quality, affordable health care for themselves and their family.
For the first years running my business I scraped by with a safety net plan, the only insurance I could afford while keeping our B&B running. Coverage was terrible and out of pocket expenses high, but it was what was available for business owners like me without access to health insurance plans through an employer. Doctor’s visits meant money siphoned from our household expenses and upkeep to the Inn, so I spent a lot of energy willing my family to stay healthy.
When the Affordable Care Act came into effect, my family and I could finally return to the realm of the decently-insured. The ACA coaxed insurers to offer real plans at a reasonable price. Our premiums went down, as did our deductibles, and our out of pocket expenses were considerably lowered. I could take my kids to the doctor without a serious readjustment to our monthly budget.
Even more crucial, the cap on out of pocket expenses meant that when my son broke his arm, what would have been a $45,000 catastrophe that set us back financially for years was a few thousand dollars for his overnight stay and treatment. Not great news, but better to have to forgo a vacation instead of a couple years of college.
Based on his opinions on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, Judge Brett Kavanaugh has proven to be hostile to the Affordable Care Act. With Republican attorneys general pursuing another challenge to the law that may reach the Supreme Court, Kavanaugh’s replacement of Justice Anthony Kennedy would tip the balance of the court and likely lead to ACA’s dismantling.
Tearing away health care from tens of thousands of Mainers and millions of Americans would be and act of sheer callousness and a gratuitous catastrophe for public health. It would also be an attack on small businesses and a setback to the economy as a whole.
As the hearings for Judge Kavanaugh get underway, we in Maine have an opportunity to put our determination and enterprise toward an expansive plan to safeguard our health. We insist that our senators reject any attempt to whittle away what has already been built.
Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court is an attempt to pull us backwards. We’re right to demand a Supreme Court justice that won’t obstruct those of us working to move forward. I hope our senators hear our plea.
Elizabeth O’Connor is the owner of Abigail’s Inn, a bed and breakfast in Camden, Maine, and a member of the Maine Small Business Coalition.