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"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

Maine Allcare Universal Dollar Fundraising Campaign

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.

Please consider making a recurring donation of any amount to support our education and advocacy for universal health care in Maine. Anyone who makes a recurring donation will receive the above “button” as a “Thank You” until our supply runs out. (We have hundreds). We are a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization. Your contributions are tax deductible. It’s easy. Simply click on the blue Donate button on the left and fill in the brief form; and don’t forget to select the “Donation frequency.” One more thing: The more donor/supporters we have, not in dollars but in numbers, the more our combined voices are heard and the closer we get toward a majority who believe that every Mainer should have affordable, quality health care! Thank you.

Maine Voices: VA has issues, but its bright spots show value of Medicare-for-all system

Enhanced single-payer health insurance would save lives and money and provide high-quality care.

 

Julie Keller Pease
Julie Pease, MD
Kevin Twine
Kevin Twine

BRUNSWICK — Not surprisingly, columnist Steve Robinson of the Maine Heritage Policy Center has jumped onto the story of the Department of Veterans Affairs scandal to sound the alarm about “single-payer” and “socialized medicine” (“VA corruption devastating for Michaud, single-payer fans,” June 7).

As physicians and concerned citizens, we offer a more rational and reasoned perspective. The problems within the VA have in fact presented another opportunity for us to shine a light on the many benefits of an improved version of Medicare for all.

Historically, there have been long waits for care at the VA. This is not unique to the VA. Compared to the rest of Americans, eligible veterans have better access to quality health care, and in some areas the VA has been unable to recruit enough doctors and mental health professionals to keep up with demand.

This is not all the VA’s fault: There is a national shortage of primary care doctors, and there is no evidence that wait times in the private sector for primary care are any shorter. For example, a family practitioner who arrived in rural Maine last August now has a wait time of almost 11 months for new patients. Many practices in Maine and elsewhere are not accepting any new patients.

Long waits for VA care are often associated with the time it takes to determine if veterans are eligible to receive care at the VA. Not all veterans are eligible. Currently, about 2.3 million veterans and their family members are uninsured, representing about 5 percent of the 47 million medically uninsured Americans in our country today.

When people are uninsured, and don’t get the care they need, the results can be catastrophic. We have learned that an estimated 40 veterans reportedly died while waiting for VA care in Phoenix.

This is tragic. However, in Maine, more than 130,000 of our citizens lack health insurance and are unable to access health care. It is estimated that because of this, 150 Mainers will die this year.

Even more devastating, more than 46,000 Americans die every year because they cannot access the care that they need, mostly because they lack health insurance or have substandard plans. In dramatic contrast, if we were to expand and improve Medicare to cover all Americans, these “excess deaths” would be avoided.

Not only would an improved Medicare for all cover everyone and save lives, but it would save money by eliminating much of the enormous administrative overhead generated in our current fragmented system of care.

William Hsiao, an internationally recognized health care economist and designer of health care systems around the world, testified before a select committee of the Maine Legislature in October 2010. He estimated that Mainers could save 10 percent of total health care spending, or $1 billion in the first year alone, by implementing a universal Medicare-like system. UMass economist Gerald Friedman estimates that a universal Medicare system would save as much as $570 billion per year nationwide.

Single-payer national health insurance, an improved Medicare for All, would offer a single tier of high-quality care to everyone. Everyone would be able to choose any provider and source of care in the U.S. It would address wait times in an organized way, be transparent and accountable, and allocate medical resources based on need, not ability to pay.

In the furor over the manipulation of waiting lists, we cannot overlook the many positives about the Veterans Affairs health care system. The VA has pioneered quality improvement initiatives and delivery system changes. It has an electronic medical record system that is far ahead of the private sector. Its administrative overhead is far less than the private health insurance industry’s.

Veterans’ service organizations praise the VA, even as they report the wait times, precisely because of its high quality. Patient and provider satisfaction within the VA system is consistently much higher than within the private, for-profit sector of our fragmented health care system.

As for substituting a voucher-like insurance system for the VA, would anyone in their right mind suggest that we take Maine’s veterans out of the VA and put them into Gov. LePage’s PL 90 health insurance plan?

We have much to learn from both the problems and the successes within the VA system. We applaud the steps taken by Sens. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and John McCain, R-Ariz., to quickly address some of the problems. And we will continue our efforts to promote universal access to quality health care for all Americans, via an improved system of Medicare for all.

This article appeared in the Portland Press Herald on June 18, 2014.

Good news for Healthcare for Everyone in Maine! Our support is growing.

The results are in: Single-payer 64 – Current system 36

On Monday, March 10th the Maine Medical Association (MMA) released the results of their recent survey on their members’ “attitudes and opinions about the directions which reform of our current healthcare system should take...” The crux of the 462 responders’ message was a resoundingYES in support for universal, single-payer coverage of all Mainers.

12-point Increase in Physician Support of Single-payer Health Care in Maine between 2008 and 2014

The survey, a repeat of one completed in 2008, was the product of a resolve introduced by Drs. Petzel, Dillihunt, Maier and Maine AllCare president Pease during the MMA’s annual meeting in October 2013. You can read more about the complete results here, as it appeared in the MMA “Spotlight” feature, online.

Support for single payer heathcare growing in Maine

microphoneMaine AllCare vice president Dr. Phil Caper was guest on Mind Over Matters on July 19, 2014 on KEXP 90.3 FM, a Seattle, Washington, radio station that focuses on today's most important social, political and economic issues. Host Mike McCormick did a great job in asking, "So, who is making the money? Who is left out and not getting health care? What's the solution?" You may listen to this informative and wide ranging interview here.

Dr. Philip Caper

Are we getting enough bang for our healthcare buck? Hardly.

By Dr. Philip Caper
Special to the BDN
July 17, 2014

The U.S. healthcare system costs each of us about twice as much as those in other wealthy countries. Are we getting our money’s worth? Not by a long shot.

According to the fifth and most recent of a series of reports spanning the past decade by The Commonwealth Fund, one of the world’s most respected independent health care think tanks, “the U.S. is last or near last on dimensions of access, efficiency, and equity” and last on overall quality of our system. The nations studied include Australia, Canada, France, Germany, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

Although the U.S. does have some advanced medical technology, as do most of the other countries studied, we do a lousy job of getting it to many of our people, leading to our poor scores on access.

We don’t compare particularly favorably when it comes to quality either. We score relatively poorly on safe and coordinated care, and while we score well on access to (lucrative) specialized care (but not primary care), that access does not translate into better outcomes. “The U.S. ranks last overall with poor scores on all three indicators of healthy lives — mortality amenable to medical care, infant mortality and healthy life expectancy at age 60.”

The Commonwealth report goes on to observe that, “The most notable way the U.S. differs from other industrialized countries is the absence of universal health insurance coverage. Other nations ensure the accessibility of care through universal health systems and through better ties between patients and the physician practices that serve as their medical homes.”

Even though the Affordable Care Act does result in a modest expansion of coverage for many people, even if it were to work exactly as designed (which it won’t) it would leave 25 million to 35 million people uninsured. Many more are underinsured due to high deductibles and co-pays, and restrictive physician and hospital networks. Both impede access to timely care. This will still leave us trailing most if not all other wealthy countries in the overall performance of our healthcare system.

Which causes me to think about Medicare, the closest thing we have to a universal health insurance system. Once you qualify for Medicare, it is good for life without any means test, and without regard to age, health status, employment status, gender or place of residence.

That kind of security cannot be achieved through private insurance.

Medicare was enacted by Congress and signed by President Johnson on July 1, 1965. Because of its simplicity, Medicare was smoothly rolled out to 19 million beneficiaries on July 1, 1966. No confusing websites or glitchy software needed. Since then, it has proven to be one of the most effective and efficient federal programs ever enacted, and has become politically untouchable. Even the most conservative politicians refuse to attack it, although some try to make the spurious (and ridiculous) claim that it is not really a federal program.

By following Medicare’s example, we could do a lot better. It would be very nice if we lived in a political culture where we could simply improve the ACA by replacing it with Medicare for everybody. But we don’t and won’t — at least not yet. We will have to wait a few more years, until the bewildering complexity, unfairness and arbitrariness of the ACA become more apparent to more people.

That shouldn’t stop us from preparing for the inevitable. The next landmark in the evolution of U.S. health care policy could come as soon as 2017, when the ACA provides the states an opportunity to replace many of its provisions with a simplified and improved system of their own.

Vermont has already enacted legislation that starts it on the path to do just that. Maine could be in the next wave of states to follow their example. If the Legislature is unwilling or unable to do that, the people could, through our initiative process.

We should celebrate the 49th (and soon 50th) anniversary of Medicare by starting the process of furthering the national movement toward universal health care as a human right.

We could create a simpler, more efficient, more equitable and less costly healthcare system that would turn us away from our current system of money-driven medicine and back toward the goal of healthcare with the sole mission of preventing and healing disease.

It would be the right thing to do.

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 pcpcaper21@gmail.com.