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Chapters: Letter Bank

Editor's Note - The following letters to the editor are written by some of our Maine AllCare Midcoast Chapter members and supporters. We are including them in our new, LETTER Bank page to inform and inspire other folks around the state to make their own public statement about the importance of "health care for everyone – here in Maine".

As a state, we have a tradition of helping each other at the community level. However, when illness strikes, particularly if it's catastrophic and costly, the consequences can be life altering for the entire family. In such cases the kindness of neighbors, through casserole suppers and passing the hat, will not solve the problem. For example, 62 percent of personal bankruptcies which result in foreclosures are due to unexpected medical bills that families simply cannot pay. Only by informing and educating every voter in Maine will lead to an understanding that Maine needs a public policy that guarantees access to affordable, quality health care for everyone. It is the right thing to do, and it will cost less than what we pay today.

After reading these letters, please write to your local newspaper and share your ideas about why you think health care for everyone through a single, non-profit state wide system is the common sense answer to a seemingly intractable problem. If you would like help in composing your letter, or if you would like one of the Maine AllCare Board members to review your Draft letter prior to publication, please let us know by writing to Thank you for caring about our state and thank you for your support of Maine AllCare.

We wish you good health.

Health care is a basic right

The Times Record
By Jean Sawyer
April 30, 2013

To the Editor:

The Affordable Care Act was passed in response to the issue of the large number of uninsured people in this country. The law provides a start toward decreasing that number. It will be beneficial for those previously rejected because of pre-existing conditions, for uninsured families with young adults under 26, or for those whose incomes make them eligible for Medicaid or subsidies.

Unfortunately, millions of people will continue to fall through the cracks. Among them are people who are unemployed or underemployed, those who cannot afford COBRA payments, those whose employers do not offer coverage (many of whom are self-employed), young adults from families who do not have insurance, those whose incomes do not fall precisely into subsidy categories and those in states that opt out of Medicaid expansion.

Life is unpredictable. People can lose jobs, become unable to work or be victims of accidents or natural disasters that thrust them out of neat categories.

The problem is fixable. We do not have to reinvent the wheel. All other developed countries have accomplished this goal in ways that have resulted in healthier people and lower costs.

In this country, not insuring everyone has taken its toll on individuals, businesses and the overall economy.

We have the means to provide quality affordable health care to all people; a single-payer framework based on the Medicare model would work well.

It is time to do what is morally right and economically advantageous to all. It is unjust that millions of Americans are excluded from such a basic right as health care.

Jean Sawyer

This letter appeared on April 30, 2013 in The Times Record, a Subscription Only publication, serving midcoast Maine.

To solve health care, Medicare for all

The Times Record, Brunswick, ME
By Kevin Twine, Brunswick
March 21, 2013

To the Editor:

Thanks to Gordon Weil for his cogent explanation of the cost problem our health care system faces (“The problem with health care is cost, page A10, March 15). “Problem” is a charitable term. “Disaster” would be far more appropriate.

In a nutshell, in comparison with other developed nations, the U.S. health care system has much more unfettered free enterprise, much higher cost, far fewer people covered and quite mediocre results.

More free enterprise is not the solution. We are in this mess because there’s too much free enterprise, and it’s out of control. Hospitals can charge whatever they want in a totally seller’s market. That’s why we get $1.50 Tylenol tablets.

Medicare, because of its size and market clout, limits these abuses — but only for our senior citizens.

I have yet to hear any “free enterprise” health care plans that make sense. All we hear is that Medicare and Medicaid are the problems. The truth is that they are part of our overall health care system and should not be singled out simply because they are big targets. The problem is systemic, and must be dealt with that way.

In fact, Medicare for everyone is an entirely reasonable alternative. It would be relatively easy to implement because it is well-understood, and a sound cost control structure is already in place. It would immediately cut costs because its administrative expenses are low compared with the insurance industry: about 4 percent for Medicare versus more than 25 percent for the insurance companies.

We must cease the ideological arguments and focus instead on solutions that make sense and are attainable. “Medicare For All” fits these criteria quite well.

Kevin Twine, Brunswick

Passing the plate on critical health care

The Times Record
By William D. Clark, MD
April 9, 2013

To the Editor:

Reading your article about the 6-year-old Harpswell girl with severe injuries from a skiing accident (“Harpswell girl, 6, hurt while skiing,” April 1, Page A1) makes me sad.

Reading about local fundraising to cover her medical costs makes me mad.

Imagining that her family might join others bankrupted by health care costs makes me distressed, with 1,830 estimated Maine health care bankruptcies in 2012.

Maine AllCare thinks every Mainer should have comprehensive health insurance. The year we vote it in, the families of 130,000 citizens with no insurance will be spared from bankruptcy when an accident or leukemia strikes from nowhere.

When we do that, Maine will save $1 billion by not paying insurance-industry profits and salaries, eliminating wasteful billing practices and so on.

Maine AllCare supports an improved Medicare for all. Mainers can and should care for each other this way.

How many bake sales does it take to cover treatment costs for “serious head injuries?”

Tell your legislators. The choice is yours. Act. And please join me in wishing the youngster a full and speedy recovery.

William D. Clark, MD, Woolrich


J. Sytsma: Improving quality of health care

Sun Journal
By John Sytsma
January 17, 2013

Why are Americans spending twice as much for health care as any other industrialized country, and getting less? The U.S. ranks 17th, using commonly-used indicators of quality, and yet millions are left without health insurance.
The government is already paying for the majority of health care, both public and private, supporting insurance corporations whose profits go to their shareholders, CEOs, their growing administrative staffs, paperwork and advertising and lobbying costs.

The government is willing to subsidize premium payments for people who simply cannot afford the ridiculously high costs of insurance.

Under the Affordable Care Act, private insurers still have another year to hike up premiums for pre-existing medical conditions and to place spending caps on individual policyholders.

In Maine, public law Ch.90 allows insurers to "close out" old policies and renew them at higher rates. It establishes a scale for ongoing rate increases. It allows insurers to "modify" benefits up to 5 percent on existing policies.

Why are the taxpayers protecting those who profit from the dysfunctional health care system while getting less and less for their dollars? Is health care a human necessity, or is it a commodity to be sold only to those who can afford it ?

A nonprofit, single-payer health care system would not only eliminate waste, but would allow this country to improve the quality of care and make health care accessible to everyone. The savings each year would amount to billions of dollars.

Over 10 years' time, that might help with the national debt problem.

John Sytsma, Farmington


Consider Medicare for everyone

Sun Journal
By John Sytsma
December 5, 2012

I am responding to a column by Matt Miller of the Washington Post, printed in the Sun Journal Nov. 30. He suggests that President Obama appoint a panel of experts, chaired by Mitt Romney, to solve the serious problems the nation faces in financing health care.

Rather than asking Romney to chair a panel, Obama should listen to the majority of U.S. physicians and many others who have studied the problem for years and come up with the only system that makes sense — a single-payer national health policy.

Yes, the U.S. health care system is extremely dysfunctional, with 20 to 30 percent of health care spending going into corporate pockets, while more and more dollars are being taken away from beneficiaries.

The U.S., with its profitized system of health care, is spending twice as much on health care as other industrialized countries, yet stands in 17th place in quality of care. The death toll is higher among the uninsured than among the insured. Medical bankruptcy abounds, even among the insured.

The U.S. needs to take a serious look around and consider Medicare for all — the most efficient, not-for-profit system, with administrative costs similar to those in other countries.

John Sytsma, Farmington


Health care change needed

The Coastal Journal
By Cathy Merritt
December 13, 2012

More than a few detractors of the Affordable Health Care Act decry the advance towards “socialism.” What many Americans don’t realize is that there has been a very sophisticated, orchestrated campaign in this country for decades by the for-profit insurance companies and pharmaceuticals, and even the American Medical Association, devoted to all-out war against “socialized” health care. They know that the very word “socialized” is enough to make people panic and run in circles. Wendell Potter, former communications head at the CIGNA Health Insurance Company, writes about it in his book “Deadly Spin.” It is time to see the propaganda, churned out by the well-funded special interests, for what it really is.

Insurance companies and the pharmaceuticals all put profits ahead of people and employ sneaky methods to shift costs back to the consumer in order to put more money into the pockets of shareholders and greedy insurance executives. One way is dream up reasons to refuse to cover treatment, effectively rationing care, as the 9-20-12 Coastal Journal article about Woolwich resident Pam Creamer illustrates (Pam’s insurance company refused to cover treatments for Lyme disease).

We need to consider alternatives to our present for-profit health care system. As Mr. Potter points out, the Affordable Health Care Act does not go far enough, having left the above-mentioned industries at the bargaining table. A very few are getting very rich at the expense of the rest of us. It is costing the lives of an estimated 45,000 in this country everey year and contributing to the financial ruin of an untold number of others.

Cathy Merritt, Woolwich

Basic level of care

Bangor Daily News
By Dr. Cynthia Dechenes

December 3, 2012

More than 135,000 Mainers are uninsured. More than $48.6 million Americans are uninsured. Although the Affordable Care Act will certainly help to reduce numbers of uninsured and will improve access to preventive services, it is not the cure for our dysfunctional health system.

For that, all parties — including citizens, health care systems, pharmaceutical companies and insurers — must agree that everyone deserves a basic level of health care.

Every day, in my work as a family physician, I meet people who are forgoing necessary testing and services due to cost. In this country we possess the innovation, creativity and intelligence to forge a system that meets the needs of all. A peek into the future reminds us that if we stay the course, far too many vulnerable people will be left without adequate care.

We do not want to be a country noted for vast wealth, yet having many sick and dying on the streets. That is not who we are.

Cynthia Dechenes, MD, Brunswick

Another View: Maine should pursue a single-payer health care system
Hawaii and Vermont are moving toward systems where everyone is covered.

Portland Press Herald
By Julie Keller Pease
November 25, 2012

With the re-election of President Obama, the Affordable Care Act will remain the law of the land.

There are many people who believe that this is a victory for universal health care. Even Gov. LePage sent a letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius saying the health reform law "is a stepping- stone to a single-payer system."

But is the ACA really going to provide health care for all? The answer is simple: "No." Even after it is fully implemented, 25 million to 30 million Americans, including at least 70,000 Mainers, will remain uninsured. Many more will be underinsured.

Instead of becoming "a stepping- stone to single-payer," the ACA reinforces and subsidizes the insurance companies' role in our complex multiple-payer health care system.

Multiple payers contribute to our health care costs, which are the highest in the world. Thirty percent or more of our dollars go to administration and profit.

Despite all of the money we spend on health care, we rank 36th in life expectancy, 34th in infant mortality and 37th in overall performance of our health care system.

Countries with single-payer systems perform far better, spend on average half as much per person, and spend just 2 to 10 percent of their health care dollars on administration.

Although we as a nation have decided that we are not ready for a single-payer system, states like Vermont and Hawaii have decided that they would like to bring single-payer systems to their states. Maine could follow a similar path.

To learn more about how a single-payer system could work in Maine, I invite you to visit the Maine AllCare website, <> .

We would love to have you join us in our effort to educate ourselves and others about quality affordable health care for all Mainers.
Julie Keller Pease, M.D., of Brunswick is chair of the board of directors of Maine AllCare

People have a right to health care

By Karen Johnson
Lewiston Sun Journal Letters
Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Donald Simoneau of Lafayette is lucky (Sun Journal Nov. 14). His friends are planning a benefit for him to help pay his hospital bills. The jars I see on counters seem to be what passes for health care these days.
That is a disgrace.

According to the U.S. Census, a Mainer dies every three days for lack of health care. There are at least 150,000 uninsured Mainers — and more under-insured. Should sick people be left to die or go bankrupt?

If people are entitled to health care, this nation should adopt what every other industrialized country has: single-payer, universal coverage.

There are single-payer systems already. The VA’s Tri Care, Medicare and Medicaid cover almost half the population and are very cost effective. Thousands of Mainers need those affordable services.

Why do we deny to the rest what so many already have? Why fear communism when the VA is run and operated solely by the government? Would anyone deprive their grandparents of Medicare? Why is Medicaid denied to working families who can’t afford medical bills or premiums? The Affordable Care Act is only a tiny step in the right direction, but still leaves people out.

Mainers are used to helping each other. Maine is a small state, like Vermont, and, like Vermont, state officials can create a single-payer system that works.

But first, people must decide that basic health care is a right to be secured equally for everyone.

Karen Johnson, Bath

Another View: Health care reform act does not go far enough to meet needs
Obamacare is a step in the right direction, but universal health care should be the goal.

By KEVIN TINE Portland Press Herald - Letters

The recent election has made it a virtual certainty that the Affordable Care Act (aka "Obamacare") will be implemented. However, the ACA has serious shortcomings.

While the details are not certain, we do know that as many as 30 million people will still not have health insurance (Congressional Budget Office, July 2012).

Also, the ACA will probably not make health care more affordable, and costs will likely remain out of control.
While we are implementing the ACA, we should bear in mind that there are better solutions that should be considered, and perhaps could be fit into the framework of the ACA.

One is the Medicare program: Simply offering it to the entire population, rather than just seniors, would save significant amounts of money immediately, because its administrative costs are so much lower than those of insurance companies. Perhaps a Medicare-like plan could be included as an option in state or federal insurance exchanges. This might be possible under the waiver provisions of the ACA.

If this sounds like an argument for "universal health care," it is.

It baffles me how the United States could have for so long treated health care like a commodity rather than a moral imperative.

We have the most expensive and least inclusive health care system in the industrialized world, and the outcomes are often mediocre. The ACA is a step in the right direction, but we need to go much further.

Kevin Tine is a resident of Brunswick.