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"[O]ut of a research sample of 4421 drug groups, 222 drug groups increased in price by 100% or more between Nov’13 and Nov’14. There are also some extreme cases (17 drug groups) where price increases of more than 1000% were seen."
Report by Elsevier – article by

If buying pizza was like paying a hospital bill

A short video on the crazy cost of health care – very funny and very true. Published by Consumer Reports September 24, 2015

Americans are paying more out of pocket for medical care more than ever before—and being socked with surprise charges. Would you stand for that when buying anything else? Say, a pizza?


Maine has 1,329,608* reasons for universal health care.

Please click on our Facebook page for today's personal story.
* Maine population estimate 2014


Maine Doctors Support Single Payer

By Julie Keller Pease, M.D.
Oct. 7, 2015 published in The Times Record (Brunswick, Maine), Letters

I was interested to read the article in Friday’s Times Record about the “Broader health care debate for 2016.” Giving prominence to “single payer” makes sense because only a single-payer plan can cover everyone for all medically necessary care, eliminate financial barriers to care, and allow free choice of doctor and hospital. Single payer healthcare would also control costs. Noted healthcare economist Dr. William Hsiao, when he visited Maine in 2010, estimated that if Maine moved to a single-payer system of health care, the state would save $1 billion during the first year alone.

Currently, the criticism of single payer (mentioned in the article) is that it would require a tax increase. In his fiscal study of H.R. 676, “The Expanded and Improved Medicare for All Act,” economist Dr. Gerald Friedman estimated that 95 percent of all households would actually SAVE money. This is because any increase in taxes would be more than offset by a massive decrease in insurance premiums and out-of-pocket expenses. Further, a streamlined single-payer system would reap about $400 billion annually in savings by slashing wasteful administrative costs, the government would be able to use its negotiating clout to bargain for lower drug and medical supply prices and it would be allowed to take other proven measures to save money.

Maine doctors support single payer. In January 2014, 450 Maine physicians responded to a survey question from the Maine Medical Association: “When considering the topic of health care reform, would you prefer to make improvements to the current public/private system or a single-payer system such as a 'Medicare for all' approach'? Nearly 65 percent of Maine doctors preferred the single-payer option, a jump from about 52 percent in a 2008 MMA survey that asked the identical question.

If you’re interested in learning more about health care for all, I urge you to visit the websites of Physicians for a National Health Program ( and Maine AllCare ( Please join us in our advocacy for health care for everyone in Maine.

Dr. Julie Keller Pease resides in Brunswick.


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 —
  • Visit our websites regularly — & 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 and and put "Idea" in the Subject line. Thank you.

6 Insane Examples of Prescription Drug Price Increases

By Anne Harding
September 25, 2015, in

When news broke that his company bought the rights to a 62-year-old drug and jacked the price up from $13.50 to $750 a pill, the CEO of Turing Pharmaceuticals Martin Shkreli became “the most hated man in America.”

Shock and outrage over the 5,000% price increase for Daraprim, a drug long used to treat parasitic infections in HIV patients and pregnant women, was swift and widespread. But Shkreli’s attempt to turn a hefty profit on an old pharmaceutical product is far from the first or only example of this practice. Other companies have been snapping up the rights to inexpensive, off-patent drugs and reselling them at a much higher cost—often with no added value in sight.

“It’s a trend,” Scott Knoer, the chief pharmacy officer at the Cleveland Clinic explained to Health. Annual drug costs at his institution went up by $11.2 million thanks to sharp increases in the prices of nine different drugs. “If you multiply that by hundreds of hospitals across the country, it’s kind of mind-boggling.”

And these increases are largely hidden from everyday consumers, because many of the drugs involved are medications hospitals give to inpatients, for example the heart drugs Nitropress and Isuprel. In February, the very same day Valeant Pharmaceuticals International bought the rights to both medications, the company hiked the list price of Isuprel by 500%, and Nitropress by 200%. “It’s the exact same drug off the exact same production line with the exact same people making it,” Knoer said.

Other big price bumps in recent years include a nearly 2.5-fold price increase for Ofirmev, an acetaminophen injection used for relieving pain and fever, back in 2014 after the original maker was bought by Mallinckrodt Pharmaceuticals. Then there’s Vimovo, a drug for arthritis pain, which increased in price nearly six-fold in 2014, after the rights were purchased from AstraZeneca the year before.

As recently as this August, Rodelis Therapeutics purchased the rights to the tuberculosis drug cycloserine, promptly bumping its price up from $500 to $10,800 for 30 capsules. Under pressure, the company backed down and turned the rights over to the Purdue Research Foundation, which will sell 30 capsules for $1,050, still twice what it was sold for before.

All of these costs are inevitably passed onto consumers in the form of co-pays and premiums.

Price facelifts for old drugs aren’t the only thing driving up your pharmaceutical costs. When drug shortages occur, “gray market” middlemen may offer these medications at a premium to desperate hospitals. Drug companies may also refuse to sell their products to generic manufacturers, which makes it impossible for them to develop a generic version of the drug. And of course, super-expensive new medications—like drugs for treating hepatitis C—are busting budgets while saving lives.

“We expect that new products are gonna be expensive and brand new products are going to be higher priced, but what’s really hard to plan for is when older drugs that you’re used to not costing very much, when those products start acting like brand-name, brand-new drugs,” Erin Fox, director of the Drug Information Service at University of Utah Health Care told Health. “It is very frustrating when there are opportunistic businesses that are just basically doing it for the money, especially with older products.”

One issue that the government should address, Fox says, is the fact that drug makers don’t need to disclose who manufactured the product they’re selling. “When we’re being charged these exorbitant prices, we should be able to have transparency into who’s actually manufacturing these products.”

In the end, the news-making Daraprim story might end up being a good thing: Knoer and Fox agree that it’s shining a light on the problem of price gouging. As Knoer put it, “The attention is good because this is a horrible issue for health care costs.”

Presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton recently announced a plan to reduce prescription drug costs in response to the news, and Donald Trump, who’s vying for the Republican nomination for president, even went as far as calling Shkreli “a spoiled brat,” suggesting the issue could become a focal point in the upcoming election.

Shkreli, for his part, has since bowed to the pressuresort of. At the height of the Internet’s outrage, he said Tuesday that he would lower Daraprim’s cost, but he has yet to share the new number.


US pays three times more for drugs than Britain, study reveals

By Ben Hirschler/REUTERS
Published October 13, 2015 in Bangor Daily News

LONDON — U.S. prices for the world’s 20 top-selling medicines are, on average, three times higher than in Britain, according to an analysis carried out for Reuters.

The finding underscores a transatlantic gulf between the price of treatments for a range of diseases and follows demands for lower drug costs in America from industry critics such as Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.

The 20 medicines, which together accounted for 15 percent of global pharmaceuticals spending in 2014, are a major source of profits for companies including AbbVie, AstraZeneca, Merck, Pfizer and Roche.

Researchers from Britain’s University of Liverpool also found U.S. prices were consistently higher than in other European markets. Elsewhere, U.S. prices were six times higher than in Brazil and 16 times higher than the average in the lowest-price country, which was usually India.

The United States, which leaves pricing to market competition, has higher drug prices than other countries where governments directly or indirectly control medicine costs.

That makes it by far the most profitable market for pharmaceutical companies, leading to complaints that Americans are effectively subsidizing health systems elsewhere.

Manufacturers say decent returns are needed to reward high-risk research and prices reflect the economic value provided by medicines. They also point to higher U.S. survival rates for diseases such as cancer and the availability of industry-backed access schemes for poorer citizens.

In recent years, the price differential has been exacerbated by above-inflation annual increases in U.S. drug prices at a time when governments in Europe have capped costs or even pushed prices down.

In fact, U.S. prices for top brand-name drugs jumped 127 percent between 2008 and 2014, compared with an 11 percent rise in a basket of common household goods, according to Express Scripts, the largest U.S. manager of drug plans.

In Europe, meanwhile, the impact of austerity on health budgets since the financial crisis has led industry executives to complain of single-digit percentage annual price declines.

The U.S. Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America says international comparisons are misleading because list prices do not take into account discounts available as a result of “aggressive negotiation” by U.S. insurers.

These discounts can drive down the actual price paid by U.S. insurance companies substantially. However, similar confidential discounts are also offered to big European buyers such as Britain’s National Health Service.

“The U.S. has a competitive marketplace that works to control costs while encouraging the development of new treatments and cures,” Holly Campbell, PhRMA’s director of communications, said in a statement.

PhRMA also argues that while Americans may pay more for drugs when they first come out, they pay less as drugs get older, since nearly 90 percent of all medicines prescribed to U.S. patients are now cheap generics.

In Britain, generics account for just over three-quarters of prescriptions and that level is lower in other parts of Europe.

Still, the United States is slower to see the arrival of generic competition to some top-selling drugs, which explains some of the differences in pricing for certain medicines on the top-20 list.

Overall, the analysis found that price differentials were slightly smaller for complex antibody-based drugs, which are used to treat conditions like cancer and rheumatoid arthritis.

Many of the biggest differences were evident for older drugs, reflecting the fact that prices are typically hiked each year in the United States, said University of Liverpool drug pricing expert Andrew Hill.

“It shows the U.S. drug pricing situation isn’t just a matter of isolated cases like Turing Pharmaceuticals,” he said.

The latest furor over U.S. drug costs was prompted by the decision by unlisted Turing to hike the cost of an old drug against a parasitic infection to $750 a pill from $13.50. It has since promised to roll back the increase.

The same medicine is sold in Britain by GlaxoSmithKline for 66 cents.