LD 1397 proposes universal, single payer health care in Maine
PRESS RELEASE Contact: Joe Lendvai
April 25, 2011 Chair, Communications Committee, Maine AllCare
For Immediate Release 207 359-8306
email: email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org
The quest by members of the Maine legislature as well as individuals and organizations to bring universal and affordable health care to all Mainers is front and center once again. Representative Charlie Priest of Maine House District 63 (D - Brunswick) recently introduced a bill, LD 1397, “An Act To Establish a Single-payor Health Care System To Be Effective in 2017”. The bill has 55 co-sponsors. The first public hearing is scheduled for May 3rd. The bill has been a work in progress for the past year, a collaborative product by members of Maine AllCare whose mission is to educate and advocate for universal, high quality and affordable health care for the people of Maine. Complete text of the 19-page bill is online.
“The most fundamental change the new Maine Health Care Plan will bring about is how we pay for health care,” said Rep. Priest, sponsor of the bill. “The plan establishes the Maine Health Care Trust Fund into which a dedicated premium will be paid by every Maine resident. Exceptions will be made for those earning 300% or less ($32,670) than current federal poverty guidelines.”
The new law will separate employment from health care. Employers will no longer be expected to pay for health insurance, and a five year transition period is proposed to allow employers, employees, businesses and labor unions to negotiate new contracts reflecting this change. And employees will never have to worry about losing their health insurance, or worse, losing their homes or going bankrupt, due to a family health crisis.
“Today, in spite of the best efforts of our representatives in government, including the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) which is designed to help 32 million more Americans buy health insurance, still leave another 20 million with no coverage. We cannot and will not solve the critical problem of escalating costs without fundamental change,” said Joe Lendvai, retired businessman and Maine AllCare board member. “While the new federal law does bring welcome changes, such as prohibiting exclusions based on pre-existing conditions, eliminating cost-sharing for some preventive services, and phasing out the ‘donut hole’ for Medicare prescriptions, the Accountable Care Act's critical flaw remains: for-profit-health-insurance itself.” According to the Kaiser Foundation, Maine has over 133,000 (non-elderly) people with no health insurance, about 10 % of the state's population, while a staggering 40% are considered underinsured.
Representative Priest’s bill, commonly referred to as the Maine Health Care Plan, will control costs, and ensure access and accountability in all aspects of the health care system. Some key goals of the proposed plan include:
- Uniform access to comprehensive health care for every Maine resident
- Elimination of income-based disparity in every Mainer’s access to health care
- Fair and equitable distribution of the costs of health care
- Simplification of the health care system for patients and providers
- Assurance of providers’ clinical freedom to treat patients based only on their health care needs, and
- For patients, a choice of health care provider(s).
Jim Miller, manager of Wooden Boat Publications, a small business in Brooklin, Maine welcomed the legislation. “Freeing up employers from health insurance obligations will thrust Maine and all our businesses, small and large, to the very top of business-friendly states in the nation. I believe that this new Maine Health Care Plan will serve as a significant economic stimulus to our state, creating new job opportunities and growth, but most importantly, it will bring affordable healthcare to everyone.”
Our neighbors in Vermont are already moving forward with legislation leading to single payer health care. Dr. William Hsiao of the Harvard School of Public Health, hired by the Vermont Legislature to design three health system options, summarized his team’s recommendation to the State of Vermont: “...our research and analysis shows that a single-payer system can immediately reduce health care costs in Vermont by 8-12% and reduce health care costs by an additional 12-14% over time. We believe that a single-payer plan will serve as an effective way to integrate delivery of health care, making it more efficient, more intuitive and less costly.”
Maine, faced with similar economic challenges as Vermont, can expect similar positive results – 1$ billion savings in health care costs after the first year of operation, based on Dr. Hsiao’s estimate – from Representative Priest’s proposed bill, LD 1397, the Maine Health Care Plan.