"Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including . . . medical care . . ."
Article 25, Universal Declaration of Human Rights adopted by the UN on December 10, 1948
On Wednesday, March 25th at 1pm the Insurance and Financial Services Committee will hear public testimonies on our two companion health care bills, LD 384 and LD 815. Both bills are presented by Senator Geoff Gratwick, member of the Maine AllCare Board of Directors, and have multiple cosponsors. Hearings will begin at 1PM in Room 220, Cross Office Building, Augusta.
Please join Maine AllCare on March 25th and speak out in support of both these bills to bring affordable health care to every Maine resident. We will have a welcome table outside the committee room (#220). Please stop by and introduce yourself to our board members, get a name tag, and sign in to speak.
You may also submit your testimony in writing, although your personal appearance is most powerful. You may email your statement to Veronica.Snow@legislature.maine.gov – she is Clerk for the Committee.
If you would like help in preparing your 1-3 minute testimony please call Joe Lendvai 359-8306 or send an email to email@example.com. In fact, if you could share your Draft testimony with us by March 22nd that would be very helpful in organizing our speakers list. Thank you.
See you in Augusta on the March 25th.
'Yes we will..., no we won't' – Political flip-flop in Vermont on universal health care
Editor's Note: This past December Vermont Governor Shumlin declared the state's universal health care law, Act 48, unworkable because it will cost too much. Shumlin received less than 50% of the vote in the November election, therefore, he had to wait until January 2015 for the Legislature to appoint him for a third term. Critics say the governor blinked, politically speaking. (Radio Vermont Group interview). "This is all politics", declared health care economist Gerald Friedman, whose Amherst team wrote the latest economic analysis that concluded quite the opposite. Not only could Vermont afford the new universal system, but would save millions of dollars in the process and cover everyone.
Open letter reply to the Vermont Governor and Legislature from 100 Economists in the U.S.
As economists, we understand that universal, publicly financed health care is not only economically feasible but highly preferable to a fragmented market-‐based insurance system. Health care is not a service that follows standard market rules; it should be provided as a public good. Evidence from around the world demonstrates that publicly financed health care systems result in improved health outcomes, lower costs and greater equity.
Public financing is not a matter of raising new money, but of distributing existing payments more equitably and efficiently. Especially when combined with provider payment reforms, public financing can lower administrative costs, share health care costs much more equitably, and ensure access to comprehensive care for all.
We support publicly and equitably financed health care at federal and state level, and we encourage the government of the state of Vermont to move forward with implementing a public financing plan for the universal health care system envisioned by state law.
Why Vermont pulled the plug on single-payer healthcare
By Bob Herman | December 23, 2014
Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin stunned the healthcare policy world last week when he announced the state was scrapping plans to create a single-payer system. The state said the economics didn't work, but not everyone is convinced.
“This is all politics,” said Gerald Friedman, a healthcare economist at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. “The most interesting thing in the governor's statement is how little has changed in the economics.”
Shumlin has long advocated for a publicly funded healthcare system and even embraced it as part of his first gubernatorial win in 2010. When the state ratified the law establishing a single-payer-like system in 2011, many viewed Vermont as an incubator of whether it could succeed in the U.S. But until recently, officials didn't really explain the major question that was on everyone's minds: How exactly would the state pay for this system?
Maine has 1,329,608 reasons for universal health care
450 billion of our “health care” dollars are spent needlessly
DWilliam Babson, Jr., M.D., Physician, Sinclair ME
(Letter to the editor, Bangor Daily News, September 11, 2014
A recent study of the hospital costs in eight different nations published in the September issue of Health Affairs has determined that hospital costs in the U.S. in 2011 were much greater than those in all of the nations studied. Lead author Dr. David Himmelstein, a professor at the CUNY/Hunter College School of Public Health and a lecturer at Harvard Medical School, stated, “We are squandering $150 billion each year on hospital bureaucracy and $300 billion is wasted every year on insurance companies’ overhead and the paperwork they inflict on doctors.” And our length of life and other parameters of the U.S. health care system are not as good as the seven other countries and many millions of Americans still have no or very limited insurance.
The evidence for a single payer health care system is getting stronger every day. We Americans simply have to become educated about why and how a single payer system works. Imagine that 450 billion of our “health care” dollars are spent needlessly and not on health care.
I suffered from what is commonly known as "job lock", which means staying in a job because I needed the health insurance
Kevin Twine, retired businessman, Brunswick ME
Throughout most of my career, I suffered from what is commonly known as "job lock", which means staying in a job because I needed the health insurance. My family and I have had serious health issues for nearly 40 years. We had constant difficulties and arguments with health insurance companies, and endured bankruptcy because a vital, unique, and very expensive medication was not covered by my insurance.
I had several opportunities to start a business, but had to turn them down because I needed my current employer's insurance. For the past ten years of my career, I would rather have worked in a different field, but did not have a choice because my employer offered good health insurance, which was becoming very difficult to find.
I am now covered by Medicare, and am grateful for it. If I had been so insured 40 years ago, I can only imagine what I might have been able to do.
“Waiting for Medicare”
Anni Cooper, retired teacher, Freeport ME
(Testimony to the Maine Insurance & Financial Services Committee, January 9, 2014)
In my early 60's, while teaching part time, with no health insurance of course, I began to experience debilitating pain in the area of my back and hips. I continued to tutor and teach part time with the aid of one cane, then two, & finally hobbling around with a walker.
At the golden age of 65, Medicare arrived in a blaze of light and I saw an orthopedic surgeon who declared that I needed 2 hip replacements that could be done, he thought, 'less invasively.' When we viewed the X-rays however, he chastised me for waiting so long, stated that my condition had progressed too far. He then provided me with 2 'traditionally implanted' new steel hips that have carried me happily along more than 6 years now.
I count myself as one of the lucky ones.
What Can Maine Doctors Do?
Return medicine to its healing roots — help educate and advocate for universal, single-payer health care that covers every Maine resident
- Join Maine AllCare mailing list, and volunteer to help, including supporting financially
- Join PNHP — www.pnhp.org
- Visit our websites regularly — www.maineallcare.org & www.philcaper.net for more information
- Organize and make your voices heard through the Maine Medical Association
- Doctors have lost influence during the past 30 years or so, but we are far from powerless – they don’t have much of a business without us!
- Doctors are still influential – make your views known
- Write op-eds and letters to the Editor of your local paper
- Testify in person and in writing before the relevant legislative committees when legislation affecting health care is being considered. MAC can help organize these efforts
- Organize speaking events directed at professions and lay audiences for Maine AllCare speakers
- Grand rounds
- Local and specialty medical societies
- Community forums, church groups, Rotary Clubs, Lions Clubs, Chambers of Commerce
If you have ideas about how else we might advance the cause of universal health care here in Maine, please write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org and and put "Idea" in the Subject line. Thank you.
River Valley Area Forms Maine AllCare Chapter
Shown above are Maine AllCare board members and several of the local attendees at the initial meeting of the River Valley Maine AllCare Chapter on February 28 at the Rumford library. The group is part of a growing State movement with the goal of providing affordable and accessible health-care coverage for all Mainers. Pictured from left to right: Marshall Todd, Dr. Henk Goorhuis, Charlie Priest, Genelle Ward Burhoe, Anne Wood, Joe Sirois, Betty Wood, Jon Starr, Brie Weisman, Alice Knapp, and Chris Wing. Please see story on Chapter page.
QUOTE OF THE WEEK
The first thing we can agree on is that the health care system in the US is not a system at all. It's just a system of disparate providers."
—Delos "Toby" Cosgrove MD, CEO of the Cleveland Clinic – from Steven Brill's recent book, America's Bitter Pill, page 443.
Editor's Note: The real issue is that health care remains too costly for most, and even with Obamacare millions of Americans lack access and are not covered.
Small ¢ontribution$ toward a big idea — Universal Health Care in Maine
We at Maine AllCare invite you to join our Universal Dollar Fundraising Campaign. We are asking for small, recurring donations. Monthly contributions of two, five or ten dollars from many people will create a modest, but stable and reliable funding source to help pay for printing the brochures, handouts and newsletters we use at community meetings around the state. Other costs add up fast, such as theaters rentals for showing the award-winning documentary, The HEALTHCARE Movie.
How American health care turned patients into consumers
By Dr. Philip Caper
Special to the BDN
March 19, 2015
A clash of cultures is rapidly developing among those of us who see the mission of the health care system to be primarily the diagnosis and healing of illness and those who see it primarily as an opportunity to create personal wealth.
The concept of health care primarily as a business is uniquely American, and it has gained ascendancy during the last few decades. While there have always been a few greedy doctors, businessmen-wealth-seekers — not doctors — now dominate the medical-industrial complex. They include for-profit insurance, medical device and pharmaceutical companies as well as for-profit and nonprofit corporate providers of health care services, such as the three large hospital systems in Maine.
Partly because of the Affordable Care Act, they also include a rapidly growing army of lawyers, consultants and policy wonks who are creating lucrative businesses helping hapless “consumers” — formerly “patients” — “navigate” their way through the grotesquely byzantine maze our health care system has become.
This shift in emphasis from patient care to money profoundly has affected the practice of medicine and resulted in the clash of cultures within health care. As increasing numbers of “providers” — formerly “doctors” — become employees of large health care corporations — formerly community hospitals — we have come under increasing pressure to diagnose profitable diseases and order profitable tests and procedures without enough regard to the benefits or harm accruing to patients. Hospital “CEOs” — formerly “administrators” — trained in the ethics and practices of business rather than health care are incentivized to configure their “product lines” — formerly “services” — to produce the largest “profits” — formerly “margins.”
Those of us in the health care “business” — formerly “profession” — have been slow to react to this hijacking of our health care calling. Patients, despite sensing something is deeply wrong, feel helpless to push back. That now seems to be changing.
For the past three years The Lown Institute, founded by Dr. Bernard Lown, renowned cardiologist and advocate for universal health care, has held conferences designed to point out the growing problem of overtreatment in medicine. Recently they also have turned their attention to the equally disturbing problem of impaired access to health care and undertreatment. They now advocate for RightCare — not too much treatment and not too little.
Arguably some of the most important effects of Obamacare have been the destabilization of our deeply dysfunctional health care system and an order-of-magnitude increase in the amount of attention given to its dysfunction by the media and the public. Elisabeth Rosenthal’s excellent New York Times series “Pay Till It Hurts” and Steven Brill’s Time magazine cover story and book titled “America’s Bitter Pill” are two of the most recent examples. These two factors have created an opportunity for real structural and cultural change.
While they are necessary, attempts at education and persuasion are not sufficient. Unlike past human rights movements, such as women’s suffrage and marriage equality, the fight for the right to health care for all Americans will require redirecting huge sums of money away from deeply entrenched, profit-oriented private corporations to not-for-profit programs that directly promote the public’s health and wellbeing.
The Institute of Medicine estimates that the convoluted American health care system wastes $750 billion per year in inefficiency and fraud, unnecessary administrative complexity and medical services, unjustifiably high prices and missed prevention opportunities. That waste creates a lot of jobs but does not pay for one Band-Aid or aspirin.
I attended the latest Lown conference, held last week in San Diego, to talk about the “Heal-In” held at Boston City Hospital in 1967 as an example of direct action taken by doctors, nurses and other healers to achieve a political goal without compromising patient care. The capstone of the conference was to announce the expansion of Lown’s mission, previously focused on education and discussion, to include creation of a national grassroots movement that will include direct action. Their first foray will be called RightCare Action week and is scheduled for the fall. Stay tuned.
Changing our health care system is as much about persuasion through power as it is about the power of persuasion. We as patients have power through the ballot box, and we as health care workers have power through our key roles in the “business” of health care to return and redirect its mission toward healing and away from its increasingly singular obsession with profitability.
All we have to do is summon the will and the courage to exercise that power.
Physician Philip Caper of Brooklin is a founding board member of Maine AllCare, a nonpartisan, nonprofit group committed to making health care in Maine universal, accessible and affordable for all. He can be reached at email@example.com.