Update – LD 384 receives bipartisan support
Augusta - March 31, 2015
LD 384 (as amended) the “Resolve, to Study the Design and Implementation of Options for a Universal Health Care Plan in Maine” passed by a vote of 10 to 1 by the Insurance and Financial Services Committe of the Legislature – only Rep. Wallace voted against it. Sen. Whittemore and Rep. Melaragno were absent.
After revisions to the language, the bill will be going before the full Senate for a hearing in the near future.
Former Rep. Charlie Priest speaks in support of LD 384, the “Study” bill on universal health care options, during the initial public testimonies on March 25th 2015. Only the Governor’s representative testified against the bill.
Large Turnout in Support of Health Care for All
LD 384 "Resolve, To Study the Design and Implementation of Options for a Universal Health Care Plan in Maine"
LD 815 "An Act To Establish a Unified-payor, Universal Health Care System"
If you believe that every person in Maine can and should have access to affordable health care please let your local legislator know and ask for his/her support for these bills. Please join with Maine AllCare in our statewide effort to educate and advocate for universal health care here in Maine.
Senator Geoff Gratwick (District 32 - Bangor) explains objectives of his bill LD 384, "Resolve, To Study the Design and Implementation of Options for a Universal Health Care Plan" to other members of Insurance and Financial Services Committee during a well-attended public hearing on March 25th.
Augusta – March 25, 2015
The legislative hearing room of the Insurance and Financial Services Committee was filled to capacity with supporters of universal health care as committee chair Senator Rodney Whittemore gaveled open the meeting. Sen. Geoff Gratwick (D-Bangor), sponsor of LD 384, a "Resolve to Study the Design Options for a Unified Universal Health Care Plan" introduced his bill before his fellow committee members by making a surprise announcement. He had a creative idea: use "crowd funding" instead of taxpayers' money to pay for the proposed comprehensive study.
"Health care reform is needed in Maine regardless of the outcome of ongoing partisan challenges to the Affordable Care Act. Cost continues to be a major issue," stated the Senator. "The US spends 18% of GNP vs 9-11% for other first world countries, while Maine spend even more, about 22% of our GDP goes toward health care. And the coverage is variable while the quality ranges from superb to poor with the US ranks 17-35th worldwide."
Maine's 2014 overall rank is 20 out of the 50 states and we are plagued with a high percentage of children in poverty, low immunization coverage and limited availability of dentists.
Among the first to testify was Pam Burr Smith of Brunswick. She told a story of her brother, sitting in the waiting room of a large medical practice in Portland, immobile with stomach pain, yet neglected for hours. Apparently the staff believed, incorrectly, that he had no insurance. He died a few weeks later of pancreatic cancer at age 51. Pam concluded her testimony: "As long as some people are considered worthy of care, and others not, abuses of concern will occur. A single-payer system is the only way we can be sure that help is there for all."
Internist Daniel Bryant MD, now retired, shared his experience from a provider's point of view. "Many patients had no health insurance, no personal doctor. In fact, that is why they ended up in the hospital in the first place." Dr. Bryant continued, "Some had private insurance with high deductibles, and behaved like those with no insurance at all. Even when deductible were low, because of the physician panels, formularies, covered illnesses and treatments were unique to their particular plans, I sometimes had to modify my recommendations: not all patients got the treatment I thought was best."
Juliana L'Heureux, a nurse and member of the American Nurses Association (ANA-Maine) stated her organization's support of the Resolve. "Nurses see and understand how people who do not have access to the health care need are disproportionately bearing the burden of experiencing poor health outcomes." Further, "the underserved are at risk for costing the health care system more than if their primary care needs were met."
Testimony in opposition to Sen. Gratwick's LD 384 and LD 815 was submitted by the governor's senior health policy advisor, Holly E. Lusk. She stated that, "Maine taxpayers cannot afford to foot the bill." Her fear: "Adding tens of thousands of new patients to the health care system, without containment strategies firmly in place, could threaten Maine's financial integrity."
In fact, a February 2015 statement from over 100 economists disputes Ms. Lusk's contention. "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...Evidence from around the world demonstrates that publicly financed health care systems result in improved health outcomes, lower costs and greater equity." The very purpose of the proposed study is to compare options and associated costs for a state-based healthcare system for Maine.
The more lengthy unified-payor bill, LD 815 was presented by Rep. Heidi Brooks (D-Lewiston). Rep. Brooks spoke about her personal experience with our dysfunctional healthcare system, and about her commitment to bring quality and affordable health care to EVERYONE in Maine.
Numerous other organizations' representatives also spoke in favor of one or both bills including: the Maine Medical Association (MMA), National Association of Social Workers-Maine (NASW-Maine), Maine AFL-CIO, Maine Peoples Alliance (MPA), Maine State Nurses Association (MSNA), Southern Maine Workers Center (SMWC) and Maine AllCare.
Dr. Julie Pease, a psychiatrist and president of Maine AllCare, compared her experience in New Zealand to her practice in Maine. "In New Zealand (a country with universal healthcare) there are minimal copays for primary care doctors visits. Immunizations and preventive programs are free. Dental services are free to all children. Pharmacy benefits are subject to a modest co-pay, based on one's ability to pay. No one goes bankrupt due to medical bills." As for the big picture, "the annual cost per capita for health care in New Zealand is just over $3,000", said Dr. Pease. In Maine the annual healthcare cost per capita is $8,521 (2013 data).
The Insurance and Financial Services Committee has scheduled a work session on LD 384 and LD 815 for Tuesday, March 31 2015 at 1:00PM, Cross Building, Room 220. Visit the legislature.maine.gov websites to view ALL of the excellent testimonies for LD 384 and for LD 815.
Please join with Maine AllCare in our statewide effort to educate and advocate for universal health care here in Maine. To receive periodic updates, please subscribe to our email list at www.maineallcare.org.