On Nov. 7, we as members of this state have the chance to improve the economy in Maine and the health of over 70,000 people. A “yes” to Question 2 on the upcoming ballot will be supporting the initiative to require the state to provide Medicaid through Mainecare for persons under the age of 65 and with incomes equal to or below 138 percent of the federal poverty line.

Three years ago, federal funds were set aside that would have provided health insurance to 70,000 Mainers by expanding the Medicaid coverage. Governor LePage and a minority of lawmakers have repeatedly blocked this seemingly common-sense solution, which cost the state an estimated $1.2 billion.

Thirty-one states around the country have already signed up for this federally reimbursed program

(which was set at 100 percent reimbursement for the first few years and will continue to be reimbursed at 95 percent for coming years, slowly titrating from there), and these states have reported significant benefits, savings, and an improved economy as a result.

Passing this ballot question would have many added benefits to help our state’s most vulnerable populations. Medicaid expansion would bring more than $500 million in new federal funds to Maine each year, would help address the current drug crisis by expanding access to treatment for those struggling, would create more than 3,000 jobs throughout Maine (including in the rural areas of the state that most need increased employment), and would help keep insurance premiums down in the private market. When parents have access to health care, they are then more likely to provide health care services to their children which would result in healthier, happier, and more thriving future generations.

Currently, Maine hospitals are struggling to cover the cost of caring for uninsured citizens who need medical assistance. This expansion would thus help cover tens of thousands of people who were previously without health insurance and could not pay their monstrous hospital bills. Maine’s hospitals deserve to be reimbursed for their services to our vulnerable populations that are in desperate need of medical care, and this initiative would provide great relief to those hospitals and other health centers in our state.

I currently work in the homes of children with special needs and their families, supporting and empowering the parents and children of our communities to build stronger, healthier relationships with themselves and others. By expanding Mainecare, my company and many others across the state will be able to provide even more in-depth mental health services to the families that are in desperate need for supportive programs in their homes and communities. By voting yes on question 2 on Nov. 7, we as a state will only benefit from increased federal funds, employment, insurance coverage, addiction services, and savings in our criminal justice system.

Please visit www.MainersforHealthCare.org for more information and ways to help get involved. We as a state need to help the 70,000 fellow community members who are struggling to access health care services and so much more.

Kathryn Jochems lives in Brunswick.

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