Sen. Susan Collins deserves tremendous credit for her courageous stand against her own party’s health bill. Her crucial opposition helped protect many of the most vulnerable in Maine and across America.

The Republican proposal would fund colossal tax cuts for the wealthy, largely by stripping $772 billion from Medicaid by 2026, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office found.

Doing so would hobble many hardworking Mainers who have multiple jobs, or are between jobs; it would harm about half of Maine’s children (47 percent of Maine children and 23 percent of all Mainers receive medical care through Medicaid); it would disrespect and endanger the 1.75 million veterans nationwide who depend on Medicaid (only 40 percent of veterans receive health care through the Veterans Affairs system); it would devastate thousands of our state’s nursing home residents and their families; and it would threaten Maine’s rural critical-access hospitals, which are economic drivers for large portions of our state.

More important than money, though, the Republican proposal would imperil lives. In 1993, a landmark study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association quantified the link between lack of health insurance and deaths. It was validated by the federal Institute of Medicine in 2002, and by the impartial Urban Institute in 2008. The most recent independent study of this link – published in 2009 in the American Journal of Public Health – found that lack of insurance conferred a 40 percent increased risk of death. In all, these studies suggest that during the six- to 12-year follow-up period, 18,000 to 45,000 Americans lost their lives each year because of lack of insurance.

On this Independence Day, we should remember how struggle and bloodshed were the price of the freedom to establish our unique form of government. As the health debate continues in Congress, I hope Sen. Collins and her colleagues keep the health of all Americans truly in their hearts.

Sam Zager, M.D.

Maine Providers Standing Up for Healthcare


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