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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

Announcement

There are two upcoming health care bills which will need our support.

  • LD 384 (S 152) submitted by Sen. Geoff Gratwick. It is a "Resolve to Study the Design and Implementation of Options for Universal Health Care..."
  • And "An Act to Provide Universal Health Care" by Rep. Heidi Brooks of Lewiston which will be a more "complete" proposal for implementing universal health care, publicly financed through a single Health Fund, to cover everyone in Maine.

PLEASE consider joining Maine AllCare in Augusta to testify in support of both bills before the Insurance and Financial Services Committee. Each bill is important to help inform the public and to advocate for "health care for ALL Maine".

We will let you know as soon as we have a schedule for the hearings.

In the meantime, it's not too early to prepare your Draft testimony and email us a copy. Thank you.

Joe Lendvai, Communications, Maine AllCare

'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.

February 2015

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.

Signed,

106 economists

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?

Read complete story

 

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

Reason #13

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.

Reason #14

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.

Reason #15

“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 info@maineallcare.org and and put "Idea" in the Subject line. Thank you.

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.

 

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.

Dr. Philip Caper

Greed, fear and other roadblocks to health care reform

By Dr. Philip Caper
Special to the BDN
February 19, 2015

We often hear boasts about American exceptionalism. But there is at least one area where being exceptional is a negative.

Most other wealthy democracies have made health care a de facto right of all. Yet we have been arguing about whether to do so for nearly a hundred years and haven’t done it yet. We spend twice as much as other wealthy countries on health care, but still leave 15 percent of our people completely without health care coverage and many more vulnerable to illness-related financial hardship.

I recently helped organize a panel discussion at a conference in Washington, D.C., celebrating the 50th anniversary of Medicare and Medicaid, to examine why achieving health care as a right in America is so hard. The participants included world-class experts from academia, medical journalism, public service and advocacy groups. Here’s a summary of what emerged from our discussion. It’s not a very flattering picture of current American politics, culture and values regarding health care, but I think it’s accurate.

The barriers to reform these experts identified fall into four categories:

Apathy. Think of labor unions or corporate executives with tax-subsidized Cadillac plans. “I’ve got mine. Why should I worry about anybody else?” We pay dearly for such thinking. Or, think of the young and healthy who don’t believe they need health care and are willing to go without coverage despite the cost to others should they need care.

Fear, distrust and anger. Fear of change, not trusting that people are going to be better off if things change, no matter what that change is, especially if government is involved. Fear by doctors and other health care professionals that reform would be too effective in controlling health care costs, resulting in loss of profits and income.

Ideology and ignorance (not stupidity). Health care is complicated, and most Americans don’t understand the health care system or that there are better ways organize it. This includes doctors. We are trained to be experts in clinical medicine, not health care systems. Many Americans are unaware (ignorant) of the fact that wealthy countries have health care systems that are more popular than ours, produce superior results, include everybody and cost about half what we spend. It doesn’t occur to us that people in other countries don’t even think about money when illness or injury strikes. Many of us seem to subscribe to a unique ideology — rejected by most cultures — that health care must be “earned,” no matter how much or how little control a person has over their health status. Many are put off by the idea of accepting any government assistance, often known as “being on the “dole.”

Greed. This may seem harsh, but the evidence is piling up. The widely accepted view of health care as just another business is uniquely American, at least in degree. Some people view the health care system as a way to prevent, diagnose, treat and cure disease and assist in healing. Others view it as a business opportunity. These two differing views frequently are in conflict. The medical-industrial complex in the U.S. is an enormously profitable industry. Those putting profits above appropriate and effective health care would like to continue to be able to do so, and they use their wealth and the influence it buys in our corrupt political system to make sure they can.

Some believe the American health care system has become more of a wealth-extraction machine — from people who buy health care products and services to those who sell them — than a system concerned with health and well-being. This view is reinforced by recent news stories about the seemingly opportunistic and predatory pricing of critical medicines, nursing homes taking legal custody of elderly patients as a means of getting control of their bank accounts and aggressive collection tactics that include garnishing the wages of low-income workers, even by “nonprofit” hospitals.

A recent report by the charity Oxfam revealed that the health care and financial services industries are the largest contributors to increasing income and wealth inequality throughout the world.

These barriers to reform can and are being exploited by those with a financial or ideological interest in maintaining the status quo. If you wonder why health care reform in the U.S. is so difficult, just remember AFIG: apathy; fear, distrust and anger; ignorance and ideology; and greed.

To succeed in reforming our dysfunctional health care system, we must continue to motivate the apathetic, reassure the fearful, educate the ignorant and call out the greedy. We have a lot of work 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.