In support of LD 57, the updating of the 2002 single payer study
Testimony by Jennie Pirkl
Before the Insurance and Financial Services Committee of the Maine Legislature
February 9, 2011
Good Morning, my name is Jennie Pirkl, I am the healthcare organizer for Maine People's Alliance and I am here today representing our more than 32,000 members in support of LD 57. The Maine People's Alliance believes that everyone should be guaranteed access to quality health care when they need it. We believe that an effective healthcare system would be accountable to Mainers and put the health of people above the soaring profits of large insurance companies.
Last year our Congress made history by passing the Affordable Care Act. As a nation we are one step closer to eliminating the fear of bankruptcy, serious illness, and death for millions of Americans who did not have health insurance. No longer can insurance companies deny coverage to children with pre-existing conditions and young adults now have the option of staying on their parent's plans while they start their careers.
The Affordable Care Act takes us one step closer to covering all Maine people, but it does not go far enough.
LD 57, To Update the Study Regarding the Feasibility of Establishing a Single-payer Health Care System, would give us the information we need to move toward universal coverage. The Affordable Care Act gives us new opportunities to look at ways to increase the number of people in Maine who are covered and we should take this opportunity to find a path to universal coverage. We should follow the example of Vermont, which has recently received a study completed by Dr. William Hsiao of Harvard, outlining three different paths to increasing the number of people covered through the Affordable Care Act.
It is unacceptable that people in Maine are suffering because of lack of adequate health care. It is unacceptable that the creation of small businesses is stifled because people cannot afford to leave their employers health plans. It is unacceptable to move backward when there is opportunity to move forward. Even Dan Demeritt, communications coordinator for Governor LePage, was quoted saying " it's not surprising that people are ready to give up on the private system because it's failing so badly in Maine" (Lewiston Sun Journal, 1/11/11).
In the last few weeks, I have heard from thousands of Maine people supporting the Affordable Care Act, many of whom stated that the national reform was "a good start" but that we, as Mainers, have a responsibility to take it further. We need to make sure that all Maine people have access to high quality healthcare. We need a single payer system to ensure that Maine people do not go bankrupt due to illness, that we reduce costs by making preventative care accessible, and that Maine people can start small businesses knowing that if they get sick they are covered. That is the way life should be.