Mainers Deserve a Liferaft

This essay by Dr. Bill Clark appeared in the November 24, 2017 issue of The Times Record, Brunswick, Maine: http://www.timesrecord.com/news/2017-11-24/Opinion/Mainers_Deserve_a_Liferaft.html

Mainers Deserve a Liferaft

BY BILL CLARK

Maine AllCare is a non-partisan, not-for-profit group that advocates for healthcare for everyone in Maine. Why is this work so important? Because good health is important to the Common Good as we pursue liberty, justice and well being, both as individuals and as a state. Because current healthcare systems are dysfunctional, unjust and unaffordable, leaving 130,000 Mainers uninsured and many thousands more under-insured. We recently received the following lament, and we are certain that you have heard comparable distress cries:

“For those of you not dealing with the abomination of the individual market, look at what I am expected to pay – nearly $800/month for steadily deteriorating garbage coverage. My deductible is $6,500 (up from the already outrageous $5,400,) and out of pocket is up to $7,350. I can’t take a subsidy as my income varies and hovers around the subsidy cutoff. If I take a subsidy and go over the cutoff, I owe all that money back. I don’t see how I can afford this. I’m still paying on my mortgage, and this new premium is like a 2nd mortgage payment. The prospect of being uninsured is scary as I am 7 years from the Medicare “life raft.”

MAC believes everyone in Maine should have a “life raft,” regardless of life circumstances, because everyone needs healthcare at some time. Our family, friends and neighbors suffer intolerably because neither local nor national politicians are willing to step up and do what is right for us.

MAC is working toward establishment of a system that is administered by an independent authority and publicly funded. Public financing of fire and police protection and education works for everyone, no matter who you are. No one likes “taxes,” but public funding would eliminate premiums. Studies suggest that we could design funding so that 95% of people would pay less for healthcare than we now do. We could remove deductibles and co-pays, which are inexcusable barriers to seeking preventive services and early care.

The system we envision would be for people, not for profits. It would avoid the complexities and unfairness of existing profit-driven schemes, and would be simple to understand and administer. When healthy, everyone would contribute according to ability and when ill we’d benefit according to need. Medicare works well, with minimal administrative costs and with benefits fairly distributed. Collective action results in collective benefit.

Thirty-four of 35 industrialized countries provide care for ALL citizens. Maine All Care thinks that we could be the first state to demonstrate taking this step for the common good of everyone in Maine. About 20 other states are working on this. MAC would like Maine to lead the way: Dirigo!

At Curtis Memorial Library on Monday, Dec. 4, please join our panelists and watch the documentary, “Big Pharma; Market Failure.” The 40-minute movie exposes outrageous pharmaceutical industry practices and destructive relationships with Congress. Maine State Senator Eloise Vitelli, Maine AllCare Board member Marilyn McWilliams and Midcoast Hospital physician Carl Demars, M.D. will discuss the film and strategies to improve Mainers’ healthcare.

Maine AllCare, advocating for comprehensive and affordable Healthcare for everyone in Maine, sponsors this event–with partners, PeaceWorks, the Unitarian Universalist Church of Brunswick, and Bowdoin College’s Public Health Club.

Dr. William Clark is a member of PeaceWorks. He lives in Brunswick.

PEACEWORKS, not surprisingly, looks at the culture we live in with a particular focus. We’re encouraged when community organizations working to move away from top- heavy, profit- driven models, open discussion and invite us to join in. This week’s Commentary is from Bill Clark, M. D., of Maine AllCare. Bill served the Bath- Brunswick community in internal medicine and addiction medicine until his retirement. — Peaceworks