April 06, 2020
Column

Universal health care plan

We live in interesting times.

We live in a time when people with prosthetic arms can just think about moving their artificial fingers and the fingers will move. Scientific discovery has brought us to a time when medical miracles don’t even seem miraculous anymore.

We live in an amazing world.

In some parts of this world, every man, woman and child has access to health care. This is true in Germany, Denmark, Italy, Japan, Portugal, New Zealand, Greece, Austria, Ireland, Sweden, The Republic of China (Taiwan), South Korea, Sri Lanka, Saudi Arabia and many more countries.

In countries large and small, on every continent, there are places where the sick get well and the well stay that way, and this access to good health is a universal right of citizenship.

We are the richest nation. If we aren’t the smartest, we’re darn close. And certainly we’re compassionate. So how did we get left out of the pack when it comes to access to health care?

It all goes back to World War II. The war industry had to ramp down and domestic industries had to ramp up. The federal government, very concerned about inflation, passed legislation freezing wages, so employers started using health benefits as an incentive when recruiting employees.

In the meantime, while we were using health care as a way to attract prospective employees, every other country that fought in the war provided their citizens with access to health care as a basic human right.

Sixty years later, 1 in 10 Mainers has no health insurance at all and nearly half of us don’t have enough coverage to make a difference.

It is time for a little boldness and a lot of perseverance.

It is time to provide each and every Mainer with health care.

Under the LaMarche Healthcare Plan, Mainers will choose their own providers and everyone will have health care. Doctors, nurse practitioners and chiropractors will still be independent entrepreneurs and not government employees.

To streamline the billing and payment process, the plan establishes one single payer for the health care needs of every Mainer – the Maine Healthcare Authority.

What are the arguments against universal coverage?

Critics often cite fear of government taking the reins as one reason against universal health care. But in our very recent history, our government took over a critical life-saving function, and the country breathed a sigh of relief.

In 2001, after 9-11, our government, concerned for the lives and health of its citizens, federalized airport security staffing; taking over security functions from private industry. It was a bold move, but we had lives to save – and our free enterprise system didn’t collapse.

The universal health care plan I propose isn’t even as far-reaching a restructuring.

Another common objection is based on unfounded rumors of long lines in countries with universal coverage. Even if these rumors were true, at least all of us would be able to get in line. In Maine, right now, hundreds of thousands of us can’t afford to do that.

Some people will say: why change when we already have the best health care in the United States? We don’t – we have the most extreme health care. We are sicker than our counterparts in countries with universal health care. We have more diabetes, more heart disease, more strokes and a higher infant mortality rate. We are sicker, and consequently we die younger.

Is a universal system too expensive? No, our current system is the most expensive, the most wasteful and the least compassionate. We are so overburdened by how we pay for health care now that our businesses are failing and jobs are going to Canada and overseas.

Some say Maine can’t do it alone, but honestly, Maine doesn’t have a choice.

With less courage than it takes for an elderly woman to stop using her pain medication so that she can afford to buy food or heat, we can get this done.

With less humility than it takes for a loving dad to lose everything he has and go on public assistance so that his sick child will qualify for life-saving treatments, we can get this done.

And with less determination than a diligent doctor uses to get an insurance provider to approve his medical recommendations, we can get this done.

With strong leadership, and with the enlightened self-interest of our business community, civic and spiritual leaders, and health care practitioners, we can provide health care for every Mainer.

Let’s get this done.

Patricia LaMarche is the Green Independent candidate for governor.


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