After careful consideration, Maine Healthcare Action has decided to suspend its campaign to put Universal Healthcare on the ballot.
“We have calculated we will be unable to meet our signature goal by the June deadline,” MHA Board Chair Bill Clark, MD said. “We are disappointed to have to end our campaign at this point in time, but we remain steadfast in our individual and collective commitment to make progress right here in Maine. This citizen-led effort laid the groundwork for future action.”
The resolution would direct the state legislature to draft and implement a bill that establishes a basic form of universal healthcare by 2024. Maine Healthcare Action had collected more than 41,150 signatures from voters across all 16 counties in Maine.
Many Mainers unable to access healthcare due to cost
According to a 2019 report from the Maine Center for Economic Policy, 125,000 Maine adults in 2018 did not get the care they needed promptly because of cost. That same year, 1 in 7 Mainers between the ages of 18 and 65 skipped care all together due to unaffordability. The MECEP report estimates a universal healthcare plan would decrease healthcare spending in Maine by more than $1 billion.
In an email to supporters Friday evening, Clark thanked “the hundreds of volunteers in all 16 counties across this state who gave their time and energy to this effort to guarantee no Mainer goes without the care they need when they need it.” He also extended gratitude to donors and all other supporters, noting that the need for universal healthcare in Maine is “undeniably evident.”
“While collecting signatures, I personally heard dozens of heartbreaking and compelling stories from Maine residents about their inability to get doctor-prescribed care, avoidance of emergency room visits — even for obvious fractures or burns — or not filling life-saving prescriptions, even when insured, because of sky-high co-pays,” Clark wrote.
There is no going back to “Normal”
“Mainers have endured an unprecedented global viral pandemic and with it unimaginable loss,” Clark wrote. “As our state and national leaders continue a march ‘back to normal,’ the people of Maine understand that there is no going back. ‘Normal’ was not working for everyday Mainers. ‘Normal’ is 125,000 Maine adults who, in 2018, didn’t get the care they needed promptly because they couldn’t afford it. ‘Normal’ is 74,000 uninsured Mainers with many skipping necessary prescriptions or medical care due to cost. ‘Normal’ is billions of dollars in profits for health insurers during a pandemic that strained hospitals, healthcare workers and families across Maine, the country and the world.”
For-profit healthcare works for profit, not for health
Clark cited the news this week that Maine Medical Center plans to discontinue its relationship as an in-network provider with Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Maine. He noted, “For-profit healthcare works for profit, not health. It works for CEOs and shareholders, not for teachers and store clerks or other working- and middle-class Mainers.”
Clark calls on Maine’s legislature to act.
“It is our hope that our elected representatives in the Maine Legislature will see this reality with a new perspective and act on their own to provide a framework for universal healthcare that other states can follow,” he wrote.