NORTH YARMOUTH – I urge the people of Maine to ask Gov.-elect Paul LePage to put people before politics. Allow the Affordable Care Act (also referred to as “Obamacare”) to help Maine’s people.

Do people know that the leading cause of personal bankruptcy, more than 60 percent of the cases, is health care costs? Average Americans could lose their homes and life savings because they can’t pay their medical bills. The Affordable Care Act will slow rising health care costs and give the majority of Americans health insurance. What a relief!

Maine is uniquely poised to continue many reforms that have begun here in our state over the past eight years. The Maine Quality Forum and the Advisory Council on Health Systems Development have labored to help give Mainers a path to high-quality, accessible, affordable health care.

The products these groups produced include payment reform and the State Health Plan. A plan to adopt the Affordable Care Act was recently presented and there was little critique of this common-sense plan and indeed it was supported by the majority.

OPPOSITION TOO EXPENSIVE

Our state would save an estimated $400,000 by directing the new attorney general to not join the lawsuit against the individual mandate. At a time when Maine is facing a major budget gap, we cannot waste almost half a million dollars on a lawsuit that other states have put forth. It only takes one state to bring this suit, so why would we spend this much money when we desperately need it here at home?

Opposition to the individual mandate does not make sense. The reality today is that we are paying for the uninsured by cost shifts by hospitals and insurers. If an individual is uninsured and he or she has an accident or gets cancer, we all pay, period. Why not ask individuals to have health insurance that will pay for prevention and treatment? It just makes sense.

Ask your friends and neighbors whether they support health care reform. Ask if they want to have treatment for pre-existing conditions. If the Affordable Care Act goes away, this right to care will be lost.

Do you want new college graduates who haven’t gotten a job yet to be dropped from their parents’ health plan? They will be dropped if Obamacare goes away. Do you want people who have catastrophic disease to be kicked off their health insurance plan? It will happen with devastating consequences if the Affordable Care Act is destroyed.

I urge the governor-elect and his administration to listen to all the people of Maine, not just to select groups who hold extreme political views on health care reform.

Listen to the doctors and nurses who care for the people of Maine every day. They will be the first to tell you that the health care system is in a critical and unsustainable condition. They will tell you that we need to pay for quality, not quantity.

We need to provide a medical home for people throughout their lifetime where they are listened to and cared for. We need to focus on cost-effective prevention rather than spending large amounts of money on extremely expensive treatment. They will tell you that we need the Affordable Care Act.

Maine has a plan to implement health care reform. We will plan along with other states to allow purchase of health insurance across state lines by 2014.

An exchange will be set up regionally where health care consumers can purchase a choice of affordable insurance products based on the individual’s needs. This will be a transparent process where no one is forced to purchase a plan that doesn’t meet his or her needs.

THINK OF THE NEIGHBORS

Health care reform makes sense economically and it will help all Mainers to be healthier.

Would Mainers prefer that one of our neighbors have no health insurance, be diagnosed with cancer, undergo long and ultimately unsuccessful treatment and leave his family with a mountain of bills in addition to their grief?

Not only does a family lose their loved one, but they ultimately may lose their home and life savings. This scenario happens every day.

Think about what we will lose if the Affordable Care Act is diminished or repealed. I urge our governor-elect to listen to all Mainers who deserve affordable, accessible, quality health care by putting people before politics and supporting the Affordable Care Act.

– Special to the Telegram