"Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including . . . medical care . . ."
Article 25, Universal Declaration of Human Rights adopted by the UN on December 10, 1948
Upcoming Speaking Events by Maine AllCare Board Members
Please check out our Calendar for all Maine AllCare events and related activities.
Cumberland – Free film screening: Sick Around the World
When: Wed, May 29, 2013 6:30pm – 8:30pm
Where: Cumberland Congregational Church, 282 Main Street - Cumberland, Maine 04021 207-829-3419
A documentary film- - A survey of health care in five countries around the world and their differences from the US system. Dr. Phil Caper, VP of Maine AllCare will answer questions following the film. Sponsored by TRI Community Interfaith Council FREE and everyone welcome.
For more information please contact Beth Franklin at firstname.lastname@example.org
Belfast – A public screening of The Healthcare Movie and moderated discussion.
When: June 10, 2013 6:00 PM
Where: Belfast Free Library, 106 High Street, Belfast
After the screening, Maine AllCare board members Alice Knapp and Bruce Vermeulen will answer questions from the audience, and Joe Lendvai will serve as moderator. We will discuss what we can do to achieve universal coverage here in Maine – coverage that is comprehensive, yet costs less than what we pay in total, as state.
For more information pease contact: email@example.com or call the Belfast library 338-3884.
Maine AllCare Speaking Tour Under Way
Bar Harbor – The audience got a special treat after the screening of The Healthcare Movie on Saturday evening, May 4th at the Jesup Memorial Library in Bar Harbor. The producers of the film were on hand to answer questions about the differences between the Canadian and U.S. health care systems. Canada has a national system called Medicare that covers everyone. It is paid for through taxes and administered on a provincial basis. The result, Canada has one of the highest life expectancies and lowest infant mortality rates in the world. Economist and Maine AllCare Board member Bruce Vermeulen and Dr. Phil Caper, together with moderator Joe Lendvai guided the discussion, much of which centered on what is the best strategy to achieve universal health care. The simple answer, join Maine AllCare and work with us in spreading the word.
Farmington – "Where our health care dollars are going and what can we do about it?" was the theme of a well attended public forum on health care financing on April 30th at Franklin Memorial Hospital. Dr. Julie Pease, president of Maine AllCare, gave the keynote address that compared health care costs and outcomes among industrialized countries. The bottom line, we in the U.S. pay at least twice as much as other nations, yet we lag behind in overall health. An expert panel answered questions form audience, some of them pointed and personal, such as, "who benefits when people with mental illness are thrown off Mainecare"? And, 'how can everyone in Maine get affordable health care coverage?"
Southwest Harbor – Surrounded by members of Acadia Senior College, Maine AllCare board member Alice Knapp spoke about the economics of health care, held at Sips Cafe on March 1st. During the Q&A following the presentation Ms. Knapp answered a broad range of questions including: how consumers can be protected, health care extended to all who need it, costs controlled, insurers regulated, and professionals, including physicians and hospitals, fairly compensated – all through a universal, single payer system.
Calais – Alice Knapp (standing), together with Maine AllCare board members Joe Lendvai (center) and Dr. Phil Caper (not shown) visited with members of the Calais Rotary Club and discussed how a single-payer, universal health care system can cover all Mainers – today over 127,000 of us are uninsured – for no more than what we currently pay as a state. This well-attended program was held on February 6th at the Washington County Community College.
Ellsworth – Maine AllCare VP Dr. Phil Caper presented a program on our health care system, comparing it to the Canadian national system in terms of cost, access and outcomes. The evening's of discussion included showing the abbreviated version of The Healthcare Movie, to help get the audience up to speed on Canada's health system called "Medicare". The findings: they pay less (just a little over half of US costs), have universal coverage and better outcomes. The audience was attentive and engaged; a number of people expressed interest in helping Maine AllCare with future events.
Portland – Dr. Julie Pease and Dr. Phil Caper made a joint presentation at a well-attended Medical Grand Rounds on January 9th at Maine Medical Center. It is part of Maine AllCare's state-wide educational initiative about the many benefits of implementing a universal health care system here in Maine.
Machias – Dr. Phil Caper, right, speaking with Larry Finnegan, Vice President of the Machias Rotary Club before the November 27th Maine AllCare screening of The HEALTHCARE Movie at the Bluebird Ranch Family Restaurant in Machias. The film was followed by a Q&A session and discussion led by Dr. Caper about how universal health care will benefit small businesses and everyone else in Maine. A measure of the evening's success was summarized by club member and program co-ordinator Wayne Peters, who said in an understatement, "...no one left early."
Portland: Maine AllCare board member Phil Caper and volunteer Beth Franklin moderated a public discussion on November 15th at the Think Tank in Portland. The documentary, The HEALTHCARE Movie, was followed by a very lively discussion by those in attendance, including doctors, small business owners, building contractors, students, and concerned citizens, on how to move toward universal health care for all Maine people.
There was solid agreement and support among the audience for a single payer system that provides universal access to health care for everyone in Maine.
Presque Isle: An extensive discussion followed a presentation on universal health care by Maine AllCare board members Dr. Phil Caper and Joe Lendvai on Tuesday, October 2nd at the Turner Memorial Library. Those attending included doctors, teachers, small business owners, and a number of candidates running for the state Legislature.
Jim Fisher, host of Common Health on WERU community radio, recorded this event and produced a concise, edited version. You can listen to this interesting and informative discussion here.
Blue Hill: A Community Forum and Expert Panel discussion on Universal Health Care was sponsored by Maine AllCare and co-sposored by Alliance for Democracy, Occupy Blue Hill and Peninsula Peace and Justice on Wednesday, October 10, 2012 at the Blue Hill Town Hall. The meeting focused on how a universal, non-profit approach will allow Maine businesses to be more competitive.
Norway: Dr. Julie Pease, President of Maine AllCare, was the guest speaker at the Fare Share Commons in Norway on October 18, 2012. The evening began with the screening of the recently released film The HEALTHCARE Movie. It was followed by an extensive Q&A session on issues relating to universal health care, and how it will reduce costs while covering everyone in Maine.
Biddeford: Maine AllCare board member Alice Knapp was guest lecturer at the New England College of Osteopathic Medicine Medicine on October 19, 2012. Ms. Knapp, an attorney and former head of Consumer Protection for the Maine Bureau of Insurance spoke to the Health Policy Fellowship Class of 2013. She addressed the theme of Universal Health Care with Single Payer System by stating: "There are three imperatives underlying our call for single payer healthcare: the moral imperative, the fiscal imperative and the political imperative."
The Farmington Forum on Healthcare Financing -- Great interest, great questions, and a greater consensus in support of healthcare for everyone
By John Sytsma, MD
A small town in Western Maine hosted an exciting Free Public Forum on Healthcare Financing organized by John Sytsma, M.D. of PNHP on April 30, sponsored by Maine AllCare, and held at Farmington's Franklin Memorial Hospital. Forty-five local citizens and six Maine AllCare board members witnessed an inspiring presentation and panel discussion that lasted well over two hours. Under Maine AllCare's colorful banner, their chair of communications, Joe Lendvai gave an introductory A/V presentation outlining the problems we are facing and the work of Maine AllCare. He introduced Dr. Julie Pease, President of Maine AllCare who gave a personal account of her psychiatric practice under a single payer system in New Zealand, as well as a host of statistics and graphs highlighting the U.S. fiscal morass. Two more Maine AllCAre members, Alice Knapp, Esq., and Phil Caper, M.D. and an economist, Garrett Martin, then joined Dr. Pease to form a panel, each making brief presentations, and then opening the meeting up for questions.
Dr. Caper compared our for-profit, insurance based system with single payer systems the world over. Generally they are independent, publicly funded, non-profit systems that pays for everyoneʼs healthcare. Garrett Martin pointed out how our healthcare expenditures are the main driving force behind our National Debt, and how many of our personal economic decisions are related to healthcare expenses. Alice Knapp was clear about the immoral basis for our system, how it corrodes our democracy, and creates an artificial and bitter divide between the haves and the have-nots. Many more issues were raised regarding profit-making, fear, ignorance and greed, as well as the search for strategies and solutions.
There was a consensus as the meeting progressed, that our aim should remain to educate the public, and to prepare for the day when we can opt out of the ACA in 2017. Then a groundswell of public opinion can support a referendum to bring about a single payer system. Meanwhile, a Western Maine chapter of Maine All Care will be formed to spread the word.
Editor's Note: Maine AllCare is showing The HEALTHCARE Movie around the state, a 65-minute documentary that tells the real story about the health care systems in Canada and the United States, and how they evolved to be so different. The film is narrated by Kiefer Sutherland, who is the grandson of the “father of Canadian health care”, Tommy Douglas.
We're also very fortunate to have the producers of the film, Laurie Simons and Terry Sterrenberg in Maine. Although they are shooting a new film, they are available to attend some of the screenings and answer your questions in person, whether about the film, or on the personal and emotional impact on Canadiens who now have access to health care.
If your group is interested in screening The Healthcare Movie please let us know. We will try our best to schedule a showing in your community along with a discussion on how we, in Maine, can achieve health care for everyone.
The U.S. Health
Editor's Note: One of the frequent criticisms of universal healthcare, particularly by those by those with vested financial interest in today's insurance based system, is that a single system that covered everyone automatically would lead to rationing and interference. Well, that is exactly what insurance companies are doing today by denying claims and effectively micromanaging what doctors can do to help patients. By contrast, a universal system will allow doctors and patients to make medical decisions together, based on a person's health care needs only. And in the process, return medicine to its healing roots.
Rough sailing ahead for health care reform, but it’s not our only option
By Philip Caper
Special to the BDN
May 16, 2013
You know another storm is brewing when Washington politicians start looking for somebody else to blame for problems they themselves created.
That’s what happened recently at a Senate budget hearing when Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus unloaded on Kathleen Sebelius, President Barack Obama’s health and human services secretary. He berated her for failing to adequately educate the public or competently implement the 2,000-plus page Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare. During the hearing, Baucus worried aloudabout “a huge train wreck coming down” if the Obama administration didn’t clean up its act. Other Democrats soon piled on.
Aside from being known as one of the most prolific producers of lobbyists from among his staffers in the Senate, Baucus is probably best known as one of Obamacare’s prime architects.
Baucus is right to worry that the law may in fact run into extreme turbulence. It is far too complex. It has too many moving and interdependent parts to be smoothly implemented by anybody, no matter how talented or highly motivated, and it is too controversial.
There are a lot of people in and out of Congress — about 50 percent of Americans, according to the latest polls — who do not want to see the law implemented and will find ways to sabotage it. The law itself provides no shortage of opportunities to do so.
First, there is the challenge of setting up the health insurance exchanges in every state, when almost half the states, including Maine, have indicated no interest in doing it themselves. In those states, that job will fall on the federal government.
Then there is the law’s expansion and standardization of Medicaid — optional for each state, since the Supreme Court last year found making it mandatory to be unconstitutional. A large number of Republican governors, including Maine’s, have so far shown little interest in expanding that program.
The law also intends to expand the federal Community Health Center program. Republicans and others opposed to an expansion of government can be relied on to resist funding that program every chance they get. They will also resist expanding funding for the law’s subsidies for the purchase of private insurance.
In addition, the complexity of the law has created a huge number of unknowns. Each unknown creates plenty of opportunities for mischief in the future. Some examples: How many healthy young people will sign up for the exchanges (thus keeping premiums down for others) instead of simply paying or dodging the tax penalties? How many businesses will choose not to hire that 50th employee to avoid the mandatory coverage provisions of the law?
It now appears that federal subsidies in the exchanges may apply only to employees, and not dependents. How will this affect employees’ willingness to sign up for increasingly expensive family health insurance coverage? How will mid-year changes in employment or income affect the operation of the program and those covered by it? How will labor mobility be affected by this new system, and how will that affect the general economy?
There are lots more unknowns, but you get the idea. Complexity, not implementation, is the underlying pathology of Obamacare. Congress, not the administration, bears the brunt of the responsibility for that.
Mr. Baucus surely knew about this at the time of the law’s passage. After his own constituents in Libby, Mont., became uninsurable by private insurance due to industrial pollution with carcinogens and were unable to get the courts to hold the polluters responsible, Baucus came to the rescue. He simply tucked a little provision into the massive health reform bill making affected Montanans eligible for — you guessed it — Medicare.
No health insurance exchanges for these hardworking folks. Nothing but the best for Libby. By taking the simple, direct and most efficient route to expanding health-care coverage, Mr. Baucus did the right thing by his constituents. But Baucus made sure that everybody else had to settle for Obamacare.
It has been observed that “Americans will always do the right thing, once they’ve exhausted all alternatives.” I’m not holding my breath waiting for Congress to revisit health care reform anytime soon. But there is a lot we can do here in Maine to make health care a human right. Under the new law’s provisions we, like Vermont, can begin to move down a path to universal coverage in our state starting in 2017.
In some ways, we’re not as lucky as Vermont. Unlike Vermont, we have a large for-profit insurance presence in Maine. That means there’s a lot of money at stake. There will therefore be a lot of resistance.
But unlike Vermont, in addition to our ability to replace politicians who fail to act in the interests of the majority, we can use the initiative and referendum processes to express the people’s will directly.
It won’t be easy. But all we need is for most of us to have a common understanding of what to do and the will to do it. Are we up for it?.
Physician Philip Caper of Brooklin is a founding board member of Maine AllCare, a nonpartisan, nonprofit group committed to making health care in Maine universal, accessible and affordable for all. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
I Am A Republican… Can We Talk About A Single Payer System?
By David May
ACC-in-Touch Blog, American College of Cardiology, April 23, 2013
I am a Republican. For those who know me that is not a surprise. I live in a red state. I have never voted for a Democratic presidential candidate. I can field strip, clean and reassemble a Remington 12-gauge pump blindfolded. And on top of it, I think we should talk about having a single payer national health care plan. The reason is quite simple. In my view, we already have one; we just don’t take advantage of it.
Firstly, Medicare and the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) are de facto setting all of the rules now. They are a single payer system. When we go to lobby the Hill, we lobby Congress and CMS. Talking to Blue Cross, Aetna, Cigna and United Health care is essentially a waste of time. All the third party payers do is play off the Medicare rules to their advantage and profit. They have higher premiums, pay a somewhat higher benefit and have a significantly higher level of regulation which impedes the care of their customers. This is no longer consumer choice but effectively extortion, a less than hidden shake down in which the “choice” for a family of four is company A at $900 per month or company B at $1100 per month. The payers are simply taking advantage of the system, playing both ends against the middle.
Secondly, in order to move forward with true health care finance we need complete transparency in cost and expense… and we need it now. As was noted in a recent Time magazine piece on the hidden cost of health care, our current system is a vulgar, less than honorable construct more akin to used car sales than medical care, cloaked under the guise of generally accepted accounting principles and hospital cost shifting.
Thirdly, with a single payer system would potentially come real utilization data, real quality metrics and real accountability. The promise of ICD-10 with all of its difficulties is that of a much more granular claims-made data. We could use some granularity in health care data and we will never achieve it in big data quantities without a single payer system.
Lastly, I think that the physicians should be in charge of health care and not the insurance companies and hospital systems. With a single price structure, it becomes all about medical decision making, efficiency, the provision of care to our patients, and shared decision making, all of which we do well.
How, you might say, could a Republican come to such a position? The simple answer is I really think it is quite Republican. Oh, I know there will be many raised eyebrows and many critics. I accept that. I understand the fact that no single payer system is perfect, that it is “socialist,” that it is “un-American.”
I would submit to you, however, that it is un-American to allow many of our citizens to be uninsured, that it is un-American to shunt money away from a strong military in order to support a bloated, inefficient and fraud-laden health care system, that it is un-American not to be open and above board with the cost of what we do, the expense of that service and the profit that we make. Mostly, it is un-American to let this outrageous health care injustice continue.
(David May, MD, PhD, FACC, is chair of the Board of Governors of the American College of Cardiology. He invites responses to his comments at the link below.)