Long term plan

Maine Legislature in 2012
By AL DIAMON  |  December 7, 2011

Since you're reading this column, I assume you're a person well-versed in the important matters facing this state, or else you're insanely bored and found my stuff marginally more entertaining than the legal notices. In either case, you'll make an excellent subject for my scientific-type poll about next year's election. This won't take long, because there's only one question:

Which of the following issues is most important to you in deciding whom to support for the Maine Legislature in 2012?

a) The cost of health care.

b) Maintaining election-day voter registration.

c) Obtaining a device that will give you unlimited free access to cable-TV pay channels with no chance the cable company will find out nor that your spouse will be able to block the more objectionable ones.

You probably noticed my poll doesn't include such hot-button items as fixing the economy or creating jobs, because anyone with more brain function than tortellini knows there's nothing politicians can or will do about those things. Nor am I asking how you feel about Governor Paul LePage, because that answer breaks down along partisan lines, with most Republicans in favor and most Democrats opposed, which leaves the outcome up to crazy people and supporters of independent Eliot Cutler.

But I repeat myself.

The results are in. Ninety-three percent said they'd cast a ballot for anybody who can get them that cable-TV gizmo. Six percent went with health care. And a mere 1 percent said they'd be swayed by voter registration.

How should we interpret these numbers? For one thing, we now know that most folks reading this column are more bored than knowledgeable and will probably forget to vote because they'll be busy watching a Jenna Jameson marathon on the Edible Thong channel. We've also learned that the successful people's veto referendum to preserve election-day registration won't be much help to Democrats, who organized that effort, or much hindrance to Republicans, who opposed it. In the real world, most voters will have forgotten about that squabble by next November, and those who haven't won't care.

That leaves health care.

Earlier this year, the GOP used its legislative majorities to muscle through a reform plan dealing with that very issue, but most of the new law has yet to have much impact. The first changes took effect in October and appear to have decreased insurance costs for some small businesses in urban areas, while raising rates in rural parts of the state. Young people are expected to find health care more affordable. Old people, not so much. There's supposed to be more competition, with out-of-state insurance companies finding it easier to operate in Maine. New types of HMOs will be allowed, as well as new health savings accounts. And everyone with insurance will pay a monthly tax to help cover everyone without it.

Republicans, many of whom had to be strong-armed into supporting a plan that contained a tax hike, have their fingers crossed that by election day, there'll be more winners than losers in this mix. Democrats are betting the complications will overwhelm the reforms, mirroring what happened with the Dirigo Health fiasco they passed a few years ago. (Although the Dems probably won't put it quite that way.)

In any case, it'll be a big campaign issue in 2012. Which is just how the Democrats planned it.

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