Because “Health care is at the top of a group of issues that voters want 2018 midterm candidates to talk about” (Kaiser Family Foundation) Maine AllCare recently sent out a brief questionnaire to the state’s 16 gubernatorial and Cumberland County’s 73 legislative candidates to determine how they stand on the issue. Our goal was two-fold: to inform ourselves and the public of the various candidates’ positions prior to the primaries, and to engender a conversation with our politicians on the topic.
These were the questions, moving from the theoretical to the practical:
Question 1 – Do you think all Maine residents should have life-long, ready access to all needed health care?
Question 2 – If so, do you think the state government should be responsible for ensuring that they do?
Question 3 – Will you support a publicly funded system of privately provided care for all Maine citizens? If not, what sort of system do you support?
As of May 28 we had received 9 responses from the 16 gubernatorial candidates and 30 from the 73 legislative candidates, for an overall response rate of 44%.
FOR A PRINTED SUMMARY OF THE TALLIES: CANDIDATE TALLIES
FOR INDIVIDUAL RESULTS AND COMMENTS: Candidate-questionnaire-results-and-comment-spreadsheet (Note: Those individuals who commented are marked with a flag in the comment column. Click on the flag to view their comments.)
Following one reminder mailing, as of May 28 we had received 9 responses from the 16 gubernatorial candidates and 30 from the 73 legislative candidates, for an overall response rate of 44% (39/89). 33 of these 39 respondents were Democrats, 5 were Unenrolled, and 1 represented the Green Party. None of the Republican candidates had responded.
Admittedly, it is difficult to reduce to Y’s and N’s one’s position on an issue as complex as health care policy. Indeed, sometimes as we processed the results we found it difficult to categorize hedged or qualified responses, but to the best of our ability we determined that of the 39 who had replied, 37 answered Yes to Question 1 (95%), 31 Yes to Question 2 (79%), and 31 Yes to Question 3 (79%). Many respondents did include thoughtful comments with their responses, and some even reached out for further discussion.
To put these results into perspective, we also consulted the respective party platforms for health care policy positions. The Republican platform references “providing health care through free market solutions,” and working to “repeal the Affordable Care Act (Obama Care) and all initiated components.” In addition, it states that, “to maintain the safety-net for Maine’s most vulnerable, we support comprehensive welfare reform which offers a pathway to self-sufficiency and prioritizes resources and services for the elderly and the disabled.” The Democratic platform states that Democrats “will work actively to ensure that people in Maine have… Universal access to high quality and affordable health care,” and that they support “a health care system with protection for all Mainers against the significant economic consequences of illness and injury.” And a Green party plank sets as one of that party’s goals to “establish a state-funded single payer health care system with comprehensive healthcare for all, including vision care, hearing care, mental health, and dental health, regardless of ability to pay.”
Given the stark differences among the parties’ positions on health care expressed in their platforms, we were surprised and disappointed not to hear from a greater range of candidates. Perhaps our reference to “a publicly funded system” was off-putting to some of a conservative bent. Clearly, though, there are arguments to be made for addressing the many problems in our health care system (cost, waste and duplication, poor or nonexistent coverage, complexity for patient and provider alike, employer burden, etc.) through “market solutions” based on conservative principles; but unless these arguments are expressed they can’t be considered and debated.
Whether or not the above results are helpful to voters, it is our hope that all the candidates who emerge from the primaries will speak out clearly about their position on health care so that in the fall, when the people of Maine step into the polling booths, they can take those positions into account.
Our analysis was also featured in the Maine Voices column of the Portland Press Herald on May 30: https://www.pressherald.com/2018/05/30/maine-voices-lets-hear-positions-on-health-care-from-a-wide-range-of-maine-candidate/