Open pill bottle with pills spilling out against background of U.S. currency
Photo: Images Money, Flickr

The current health care “system” in the U.S. is too complicated, costs too much, and leaves many uninsured and unable to get the care they need. A survey by Consumers for Affordable Health Care (CAHC) released in May 2023 shows how these problems affect people here in Maine.

Here are some highlights of the survey results, from CAHC and reporting from the Maine Center for Economic Policy (MECEP):

  • More than two-thirds of Mainers believe that just one major medical event would cause them financial disaster.
  • Nearly six in ten with commercial insurance are concerned that they will experience a gap in coverage because they cannot afford health insurance.
  • More than one in three skipped or delayed going to the doctor when they were sick due to costs.
  • One in four cut pills in half, skipped doses of a mediation, or delayed or did not fill a prescription due to cost.
  • One in four Mainers with commercial insurance had a medical claim denied in the past two years.
  • More than four in ten have medical debt in their household.
  • Nearly all surveyed (89%) Mainers believe it is highly important that everyone in the state has access to comprehensive health insurance.

These survey results paint a compelling picture of what Maine people experience in our health care system, and what we want to see: Many of us are struggling to afford and access the care we need and we want everyone to have health care.

Even though Maine has a lower rate of uninsured people than several years ago, many are functionally uninsured even though they have coverage–between high deductibles, cost-sharing, and co-pays, plus the cost of premiums, people can’t or don’t get the care they need due to cost.

In the last section of the survey, respondents are asked about their support for various measures to reduce health care costs and make health care more accessible and affordable. These include consumer assistance programs, increasing pricing transparency for health care services, and the creation of an Office of Affordable Health Care. They’re also asked if they would support the creation of a public option–a government-run health insurance option that, in theory, would compete with private insurers’ plans.

These measures are often pursued to help people in the system we have now, and that’s important work and a laudable goal. But these measures don’t go far enough because they don’t address the underlying problems in the system.

We have a solution that would make sure every resident in Maine has access to affordable health care: a publicly funded system in which everyone contributes and everyone benefits, and funds go to health care rather than corporate profit.

Many studies have found that such as approach can save money–even billions of dollars–while covering everyone.

For patients, this would mean no more networks, tiers, deductibles, co-insurance, surprise bills, or medical debt. For physicians, release from the burden of extensive prior authorizations, insurance companies denying care, and the complexity of billing and reimbursement in our current system.

A 2019 report from MECEP showed that such a system could save the state of Maine $1.5 billion per year and lower overall costs for nearly all Mainers, while reducing administrative burden and increasing autonomy for medical professionals.

A public option wouldn’t accomplish these things because it leaves the current system in place, and in fact adds another potential payer to the mix. Increasing pricing transparency and other tweaks to the system won’t accomplish these things either. We need systemic change.


Views of Maine Voters on Health Care Affordability, Consumers for Affordable Health Care (CAHC) (May 2023)
Survey results show a “broken” health care system in Maine, Maine Center for Economic Policy (MECEP) (June 2023)
Assessing the Costs and Impacts of a State-Level Universal Health Care System in Maine (MECEP) (2019)