Once again our Legislature is considering expanding MaineCare. Expansion has been considered several times in the past few years but never garnered enough votes to override our governor’s veto. A bill put forward by Republican state Sen. Tom Saviello is addressing this issue and would try once again, this time with a focus on better addressing opiate addiction in our state.

If MaineCare is expanded as the Affordable Health Care Act intended, 60,000 more of our citizens would be covered.

Our state would receive a large amount of federal money, which would cover most of the cost. This would allow these citizens to get primary care doctors and medical care in our state would be more effective and much less costly.

With a new recognition of the damage Maine’s drug abuse crisis is causing, the importance of expanding Medicaid has never been clearer. Many patients with addiction problems have no doctor and no way to get help except through costly visits to already overcrowded emergency rooms.

Emergency departments are not designed to deal with the complex problem of drug addiction.

If these patients had affordable access to a primary care doctor, they would be more likely to seek treatment, recover and rejoin society. That’s the best possible outcome for the patient, the patient’s family and friends, the health care system and even the taxpayers.

Please encourage your legislators – both Republicans and Democrats – to support this bill. It will improve the health of our fellow citizens, help to diminish the narcotic epidemic and reduce your tax burden.

Nancy Hasenfus, M.D.