As a registered nurse who believes unquestionably that health care is a human right, I’ve tried unsuccessfully to understand the governor’s reasoning behind denying federally funded Medicaid access to 70,000 Mainers, all of whom make less than $12,000 a year.

He has said that he doesn’t want the state to take on any of the MaineCare tab for these working poor. So, what is the alternative for people who can barely afford to eat, let alone shoulder the costs of health insurance through the Affordable Care Act and subsequent co-pays, deductibles, etc.?

The governor’s concern for costs “down the road” fails to address the pressing urgency of the health care needs of these most vulnerable people, many of whom suffer chronic illnesses and need life-saving medications and treatments. Their medical problems do not simply evaporate.

Many of these Mainers who are being denied coverage are women of reproductive age who have their own unique health care needs.

Women without coverage tend to forgo preventive diagnostic testing like mammograms, Pap smears, HIV and hepatitis screening, colorectal testing and family planning services. Although some may be able to obtain MaineCare during pregnancies, those who do not seldom avail themselves of vital prenatal and post-partum care.

Statistics show that children of uninsured parents are less likely to have regular checkups and preventive care despite being covered by MaineCare.

In addition, all health plans, including MaineCare, now provide screening and referrals for domestic violence, something the governor has pledged to make a top priority during his recent campaign. Again, women without any coverage are less likely to be exposed to this type of counseling and support.

Is this really the kind of Maine we want? Every one of us deserves equal access to health care, regardless of income, and anything less diminishes us as Mainers and Americans.

Leanne Cooper