Proposed Bill Would Have Denied Mainecare Benefits To Smokers 

A lawmaker in Augusta has raised some eyebrows over a bill he submitted that would make smokers ineligible for Mainecare benefits.State Senator Tom Saviello of Wilton has certainly got some people’s attention. A new bill he presented to fellow lawmakers on Tuesday says, if you smoke, you can’t have Mainecare benefits. He submitted the bill after talking to one of his constituents who works in a health care facility and had grown frustrated. “Because she had patients that would come in with upper respiratory distress. They smoke and they’re on Mainecare,” says Senator Saviello. “Her feeling was if they have enough money to buy cigarettes they should have enough money to buy health insurance.”Saviello says around 40% of Mainecare recipients are smokers and that number is just too high. But some smokers say they’re being unfairly targeted. “Well I don’t think it’s right,” one woman who didn’t want to be identified told me. “You can’t stop Medicaid and everything just because you’re a smoker. I think everybody deserves medicare whether you’re a smoker or not.”Some non-smokers, like Becky Geschwind of Winthrop, say the bill could motivate smokers to quit. “If this could help be a deterrent for that why not? We live in a great state, why not make it even better?” Senator Saviello says he’s not out to stick it to smokers. He just wants to get a conversation started that he says is long overdue. “This is not an attack on smokers. It’s trying to say hey this is very expensive to us. maybe we can save some money if we help people stop smoking.”The bill caught the eye of the folks at the American Lung Association who say it violates Maine law in its current form and requested a meeting with the senator. “To see if he would work with us to change the bill around from something that is unconstitutional to something that is positive and proactive to benefit public health,” says Michelle Edwards of the American Lung Association.So the two sides reached a compromise. The bill is now a resolution, that instead of denying Mainecare benefits to smokers, would make more programs available to them to help kick the habit.