Rural health care: Essential and at risk
Maine is the most rural state in the nation. Almost two-thirds of Maine residents live in rural areas, and 11 of 16 counties are considered rural, according to a 2022 report from the Northern Border Regional Commission. These counties tend to have higher rates of poverty, unemployment, and economic distress, lower rates of health insurance coverage, and poorer population health. In addition, 15 Maine counties, most of them rural, have health professional shortages in primary care, mental health, and dental health.
People who live in rural areas receive most or all of the health care services they need from small rural hospitals and health centers, which face steep challenges in our current system. Around the country, and here in Maine, rural hospitals have closed and are at risk of closing, leaving many people without access to the health care they need within a reasonable distance, if at all.
What do rural communities need, and how can universal health care help?
Photo: Quinn, Adobe Stock
Call to action: Proposed constitutional amendment
Maine Senator Craig Hickman recently introduced a bill that would begin the process of adding a right to health care to Maine’s constitution. The bill (LD 590) is co-sponsored by Senate President Troy Jackson, House Speaker Rachel Talbot Ross, and others and has been referred to the Health Coverage, Insurance and Financial Services Committee. We’re watching this bill closely and will alert you if it comes up for a public hearing or there are other opportunities to take action in support.
Maine AllCare news
HealthCare for All Maine, the political and advocacy arm of Maine AllCare, held a series of Lunch & Learns with Maine legislators this winter focused on “Improving Health Care in Maine: What Can We Do?” On February 16, Ted Sussman gave a talk on rural health care in Maine, and Caryl Heaton discussed inequities in rural health on March 23.
Learn more on the HCAM website.
Geoff Gratwick, retired physician and former state senator, presents the first Lunch & Learn with legislators on February 2, 2023. Maine AllCare photo.
April 11: Pediatrician Organizing Team (PNHP)
8 pm EST
Pediatricians and future pediatricians are meeting monthly to strategize and build power to move the American Academy of Pediatrics to pass a strong single payer resolution and policy statement. If you are interested, please contact email@example.com.
April 17-23: Healthcare NOW annual conference: Racial Equity and Medicare for All
Join hundreds of activists around the country for a 100% online week of inspiration and strategy to win Medicare for All! The “live” conference will take place during the weekend of April 22-23. During the preceding week there will be pre-recorded panel discussions and presentations addressing key issues in the fight for Medicare for All.
More information and to register
April 23: Save the date! Maine AllCare statewide meeting
To better stay in touch and work together, we’re experimenting with a statewide, virtual meeting for Maine AllCare supporters and people who want to learn more and get involved. Stay tuned for more details in April. Questions? Contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
The power of experience: Volunteer Susan Sassaman
If you’ve requested a Maine AllCare bumper sticker in the past year, or Clynk stickers for donating returnables to support MAC, you can thank Susan Sassaman for the neat little packages that have shown up in your mailbox.
Susan has volunteered with MAC for several years, including entering data, rallying in Augusta, and gathering signatures. She spoke to the town of Bar Harbor in favor of passing a resolution in support of universal, publicly funded health care. She likes being able to contribute to the cause behind the scenes, in her own time, and we’re very grateful for all that she does in support of universal health care for Maine.
We sat down on a beautiful spring day to talk about her background, how she came to this work, and why she feels it’s important.
Maine AllCare photo
PNHP’s kitchen table campaign: Rural health care
PNHP focused a segment of its Kitchen Table Campaign on rural health care in 2020 and the resources–webinars, fact sheets, videos, and more–are still useful.
“Improved Medicare For All would address our rural health crisis head-on, and would invest in hospitals and clinics based on community needs, not corporate profits. No patient would be left behind, no matter where they live.”
Dr. Carol Paris of Tennessee makes the case for why she prescribes Improved Medicare for All to fix rural health care in this video.
Quote of the month
“We’re not often asking ourselves the question ‘Who is missing?’ Perhaps the people missing are experiencing the greatest disparities in the state and perhaps even in the United States.”
–Lisa Sockabasin, Wabanaki Public Health and Wellness
Portland Press Herald, May 9, 2021
By the numbers
28% of Maine’s rural hospitals are at risk of closing.
What we’re reading and listening to
How did we get here? Rural health challenges in America
First in a three-part series on rural health in Maine and America, from The Greater Good podcast by the University of Southern Maine (scroll down at the link to find episodes 3-5)
Why Native Americans are dying sooner
Celine Gounder, MD, ScM
October 5, 2022
“… the roots of health disparities among indigenous people are inextricably linked with the complex history of our nation’s mistreatment of indigenous peoples.”
Rural Health Care Staffing Shortages Creating Crisis in Care
Lora Whelan and Edward French
Maine Monitor/Quoddy Tides
A shortage of healthcare providers, available hospital beds and staffing of ambulance services creates headaches for Washington County residents.
Support Our Work
Turn your bottles and cans into universal health care!
Clynk is a simple way to support Maine AllCare’s work—just fill up a Clynk bag with your returnable bottles and cans, put on a MAC sticker, and drop them off at a nearby Hannaford store.
Clynk bags are available at participating Hannaford stores for a small fee. To get MAC stickers, contact us and we’ll put them in the mail to you.
Thank you to all who are participating! You have recycled more than 30,000 containers—enough to fill 308 lobster traps!—and raised more than $1,400.
Have you gotten your Maine AllCare bumper sticker?
Contact us to request yours!
Are you already sporting a sticker?
Send us a photo! We love to see the message spreading far and wide.
If you have trouble accessing content linked in this newsletter, please feel free to contact us. We’ll try to help.
Thank You for Your Support
Your donation is tax deductible under Section 501(c)3 of the IRS code, to the full extent allowed by law.
Maine AllCare promotes the establishment of publicly funded health care coverage for all Maine residents. This system must be efficient, financially sound, politically sustainable and must provide benefits fairly distributed to all. Maine AllCare advocates that health care, a basic necessity, be treated as a public good, since it is fundamental to our well-being as individuals and as a democratic nation.
Maine AllCare is a chapter of Physicians for a National Health Program.
What do you think of this newsletter? We’d love to hear your thoughts, questions and feedback: email@example.com.
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Looking for more news and resources on universal health care and Maine AllCare’s work? Check out our website.
P.O. Box 5015, Portland, ME 04101