"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
Small ¢ontribution$ toward a big idea — Universal Health Care in Maine
We at Maine AllCare invite you to join our Universal Dollar Fundraising Campaign. We are asking for small, recurring donations. Monthly contributions of two, five or ten dollars from many people will create a modest, but stable and reliable funding source to help pay for printing the brochures, handouts and newsletters we use at community meetings around the state. Other costs add up fast, such as theaters rentals for showing the award-winning documentary, The HEALTHCARE Movie.
Please consider making a recurring donation of any amount to support our education and advocacy for universal health care in Maine. Anyone who makes a recurring donation will receive the above “button” as a “Thank You” until our supply runs out. (We have hundreds). We are a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization. Your contributions are tax deductible. It’s easy. Simply click on the blue Donate button on the left and fill in the brief form; and don’t forget to select the “Donation frequency.” One more thing: The more donor/supporters we have, not in dollars but in numbers, the more our combined voices are heard and the closer we get toward a majority who believe that every Mainer should have affordable, quality health care! Thank you.
Maine Voices: VA has issues, but its bright spots show value of Medicare-for-all system
Enhanced single-payer health insurance would save lives and money and provide high-quality care.
Julie Pease, MD
BRUNSWICK — Not surprisingly, columnist Steve Robinson of the Maine Heritage Policy Center has jumped onto the story of the Department of Veterans Affairs scandal to sound the alarm about “single-payer” and “socialized medicine” (“VA corruption devastating for Michaud, single-payer fans,” June 7).
As physicians and concerned citizens, we offer a more rational and reasoned perspective. The problems within the VA have in fact presented another opportunity for us to shine a light on the many benefits of an improved version of Medicare for all.
Historically, there have been long waits for care at the VA. This is not unique to the VA. Compared to the rest of Americans, eligible veterans have better access to quality health care, and in some areas the VA has been unable to recruit enough doctors and mental health professionals to keep up with demand.
This is not all the VA’s fault: There is a national shortage of primary care doctors, and there is no evidence that wait times in the private sector for primary care are any shorter. For example, a family practitioner who arrived in rural Maine last August now has a wait time of almost 11 months for new patients. Many practices in Maine and elsewhere are not accepting any new patients.
Long waits for VA care are often associated with the time it takes to determine if veterans are eligible to receive care at the VA. Not all veterans are eligible. Currently, about 2.3 million veterans and their family members are uninsured, representing about 5 percent of the 47 million medically uninsured Americans in our country today.
When people are uninsured, and don’t get the care they need, the results can be catastrophic. We have learned that an estimated 40 veterans reportedly died while waiting for VA care in Phoenix.
This is tragic. However, in Maine, more than 130,000 of our citizens lack health insurance and are unable to access health care. It is estimated that because of this, 150 Mainers will die this year.
Even more devastating, more than 46,000 Americans die every year because they cannot access the care that they need, mostly because they lack health insurance or have substandard plans. In dramatic contrast, if we were to expand and improve Medicare to cover all Americans, these “excess deaths” would be avoided.
Not only would an improved Medicare for all cover everyone and save lives, but it would save money by eliminating much of the enormous administrative overhead generated in our current fragmented system of care.
William Hsiao, an internationally recognized health care economist and designer of health care systems around the world, testified before a select committee of the Maine Legislature in October 2010. He estimated that Mainers could save 10 percent of total health care spending, or $1 billion in the first year alone, by implementing a universal Medicare-like system. UMass economist Gerald Friedman estimates that a universal Medicare system would save as much as $570 billion per year nationwide.
Single-payer national health insurance, an improved Medicare for All, would offer a single tier of high-quality care to everyone. Everyone would be able to choose any provider and source of care in the U.S. It would address wait times in an organized way, be transparent and accountable, and allocate medical resources based on need, not ability to pay.
In the furor over the manipulation of waiting lists, we cannot overlook the many positives about the Veterans Affairs health care system. The VA has pioneered quality improvement initiatives and delivery system changes. It has an electronic medical record system that is far ahead of the private sector. Its administrative overhead is far less than the private health insurance industry’s.
Veterans’ service organizations praise the VA, even as they report the wait times, precisely because of its high quality. Patient and provider satisfaction within the VA system is consistently much higher than within the private, for-profit sector of our fragmented health care system.
As for substituting a voucher-like insurance system for the VA, would anyone in their right mind suggest that we take Maine’s veterans out of the VA and put them into Gov. LePage’s PL 90 health insurance plan?
We have much to learn from both the problems and the successes within the VA system. We applaud the steps taken by Sens. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and John McCain, R-Ariz., to quickly address some of the problems. And we will continue our efforts to promote universal access to quality health care for all Americans, via an improved system of Medicare for all.
This article appeared in the Portland Press Herald on June 18, 2014.
Good news for Healthcare for Everyone in Maine! Our support is growing.
The results are in: Single-payer 64 – Current system 36
On Monday, March 10th the Maine Medical Association (MMA) released the results of their recent survey on their members’ “attitudes and opinions about the directions which reform of our current healthcare system should take...” The crux of the 462 responders’ message was a resoundingYES in support for universal, single-payer coverage of all Mainers.
12-point Increase in Physician Support of Single-payer Health Care in Maine between 2008 and 2014
The survey, a repeat of one completed in 2008, was the product of a resolve introduced by Drs. Petzel, Dillihunt, Maier and Maine AllCare president Pease during the MMA’s annual meeting in October 2013. You can read more about the complete results here, as it appeared in the MMA “Spotlight” feature, online.
Maine AllCare at the Belfast HarborFest
Belfast – August 16, 2014
Maine AllCare volunteers and board members spent an enjoyable and productive Saturday, August 16th at the Belfast HarborFest. This free, family-friendly public event was sponsored by the Belfast Rotary Club. Many "thanks" to the Rotarians and to John Carrick, President, for inviting Maine AllCare.
We had a chance to listen to personal stories about people who still struggle to receive – and even more importantly, to pay for – needed health care services. A grandmother from Massachusetts, a doctor from Minneapolis, a physician's assistant from Maine, and Belfast residents who stopped by our table all agreed that universal access to healthcare is a good thing. In fact, it's essential to the overall health and economic success of our state.
Maine AllCare Speakers Bureau member Pat Carrick and our newest volunteer, Liz Solet listen to a Belfast resident's "health care challenge" story.
They encouraged us to continue our education and advocacy. Even without the latest data (see graph below) that shows Americans are paying 50%-280% percent more than people in other developed countries, people who spoke with us said that we need a new system, not a fix like the Affordable Care Act. One that's fair and affordable and covers everyone. A simple, easy-to-use system that is publicly funded and accountable to the people, such as Medicare for All.
Please join the hundreds of supporters of universal health care in Maine by subscribing to our periodic emails that help keep you informed about major health care-related issues in Maine, as well as upcoming community events sponsored by Maine AllCare. In addition, we'd like to encourage you to check Dr. Phil Caper's "Daily News Clips", a blog that includes top stories from around the nation about health care reform. Joe Lendvai, Communications – Maine AllCare
Americans pay significantly more for health care than people in other developed countries – yet, while these other countries cover everyone, we do not; and they have better outcomes!
Maine AllCare vice president Dr. Phil Caper was guest on Mind Over Matters on July 19, 2014 on KEXP 90.3 FM, a Seattle, Washington, radio station that focuses on today's most important social, political and economic issues. Host Mike McCormick did a great job in asking, "So, who is making the money? Who is left out and not getting health care? What's the solution?" You may listen to this informative and wide ranging interview here.
The costs of complexity in health reform just keep rising
By Dr. Philip Caper
Special to the BDN
August 14, 2014
As I’ve written before, the costs of unnecessary complexity in health care reform are very high, and they are rising. There are at least three recent examples.
One is the flap over whether people who have received health insurance through the exchanges run by the federal government are eligible to receive government subsidies, as they have been led to believe. Courts have disagreed on this point, opening the door for yet one more food fight about the legality of portions of the Affordable Care Act.
Complex federal legislation, inevitably the product of many authors, is usually full of many minor (and some major) errors. These errors are usually corrected during the process of reconciling the differing House and Senate versions during the “conference committee” process.
Because of the divisive politics leading up to the passage of the ACA, no such committee was ever convened.The House of Representatives simply passed the Senate bill without changes — errors and all — eliminating the need for a House-Senate conference.
One of those errors was the granting of explicit authority for the exchanges run by the states, but not the federal government, to provide subsidies to people they enrolled, even though any common-sense interpretation would conclude that congressional intent was to give all exchanges, whether state or federal, such authority.
Nevertheless, that omission provided an exploitation opportunity to those looking for an excuse to sabotage the entire law. And exploit it they have, bringing a lawsuit that could end up in the Supreme Court. The costs of the ACA in dollars and confusion have risen as a result.
Another example is the (on its face) ridiculous attempt to sue President Barack Obama for failing to enforce with enough enthusiasm a provision of the law requiring some employers to offer health insurance to their employees or pay a fine. This puts Republicans in the interesting position of threatening to sue Obama for failing to vigorously enforce a law they have repeatedly tried to repeal.
Additionally, billions of dollars have been spent unsuccessfully trying to construct exchanges that comply with the complicated federal requirements imposed by the ACA in an attempt to perfect a marketplace for private insurance. Even some states (such as Massachusetts) where exchanges created pre-Obamacare were already working have experienced chaos, and because of it have thrown tons of their own and federal dollars down a rathole.
These are just a few examples of your tax (and health care) dollars at work. Even though these complexities provide full employment for thousands of lawyers, consultants, navigators and other helpers, they don’t buy even one Band-Aid’s worth of health care.
The real tragedy here is that if the “policymakers” in Washington were really interested in serving the needs of most of their constituents instead of those of their corporate contributors, all of this expense and confusion could have been avoided. Perhaps instead spent on providing care to the millions who will be left out, even after Obamacare is fully implemented.
The sole purpose of the exchanges is to provide a choice of insurance companies. But the fact is that most people don’t give a hoot about who their insurance carrier is. What they do care about is who their health care provider is. In yet another unintended consequence of this complex law, many insurance companies are doing their best to limit that choice in order to save themselves money.
Ironically, it is actually cheaper to cover everybody than it is to spend all of the unnecessary time, money and effort collecting the information needed to slice and dice people into smaller and smaller risk pools so we can then decide which of them “deserve” health care. Moreover, risk pools of different types of people (old/young, wealthy/poor, employed/not employed, well/sick) create yet another opportunity for politicians to play us off, one against the other.
I fully expect this unnecessary complexity of the ACA to continue to be exploited by those looking to make a quick buck or another destructive or disingenuous political point. That is unless and until we put a stop to it by sending an unmistakable message to politicians who refuse to do the right thing that we’re mad as hell and not going to take it anymore. A simple expansion of Medicare to everybody would do the trick, and eliminate almost all of the unnecessary complexity of our insurance industry.
If we were all in the the same system, we’d all have a stake in making it work. That’s how it is in other wealthy countries. Compared to the chaos we have here, that sounds pretty good to me.
What do you think?
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.