NORWAY — A gaunt and pale 63-year-old man shuffles into our clinic. He uses a walker to help him place one foot in front of the other. After months of feeling extremely fatigued, he finally went to the ER and was diagnosed with cancer. As his new primary care physician, I saw him a short time after his discharge to ensure that his transition back home was smooth and safe.

While he told me his cancer care was going well, he would not look me in the eye. His arms were supported by the walker, and his head hung between them. One of the most important parts of my job is understanding exactly what is going on in a patient’s life, so I continued to gently ask how he was doing. I asked him about his mood and if there was anything else going on. Immediately, he started weeping and cried out, “The bills!” Never had he seen or imagined bills like these.

He and his wife had no idea how they were going to afford any of his care. The situation was absolutely heartbreaking. As a medical provider, I know that this man needs to focus 100 percent of his energy on getting better, not on worrying about medical bills. But without Medicaid expansion, Mainers like him are faced with a terrible choice: whether or not they can afford lifesaving medical care.

Stories like this are all too common. That is why I encourage all Mainers to vote “yes” on Question 2, the statewide referendum to expand Medicaid.

Question 2 would help more than 70,000 Mainers get access to health care when they need it.

As a family physician in Oxford County, I want patients to come see me for regular checkups and minor problems, well before their health issues balloon into conditions that are extremely expensive and difficult to treat.

While Mainers take pride in their frugality and our Yankee ingenuity often solves problems, medical problems can be solved only by access to regular, affordable health care. All too often, I see patients delay or forgo needed care because of cost, resulting in catastrophe. A “yes” vote on Question 2 could save the lives of more than 150 of our fellow Mainers each year, according to a state-by-state study of the impact of rejecting Medicaid expansion.

Voting “yes” on Question 2 will also improve the standing of Maine’s health care facilities, which are struggling. In 2016, a majority of our state’s hospitals lost money. Cost-cutting measures are already in place, and their results are devastating. As of this summer, for example, Calais Regional Hospital no longer delivers babies, forcing pregnant women into dangerous situations.

Health care access problems are hitting our rural communities hardest: More issues with quality of care are certain to surface if the status quo continues.

Voting “yes” on 2 would boost our state economy and keep our tax dollars here in Maine. Voting “yes” would bring in around $500 million in annual revenue, save our state budget over $25 million annually and create 6,000 jobs: 4,000 in health care, and another 2,000 from the ripple effect of health care workers’ spending and taxes.

In addition, it would keep more of our federal tax dollars in Maine to help fellow Mainers. Currently, these funds are being shipped off to other states that have already expanded Medicaid. The fact is that Mainers are subsidizing health care for people in places like New York and California. As a federal taxpayer, I want to see as many of my tax dollars returning to help the people of Maine.

Finally, voting “yes” on 2 would be good for your wallet. Yes, your wallet! Maine law states that individuals whose annual income is below 150 percent of the federal poverty level must be provided free medical care. While providing free medical care is noble and important, health care systems must make up for this financial loss in other ways.

One way in which free-care costs are recouped is by increasing the cost of care to patients with other types of insurance, such as private, free-market or employer-sponsored coverage. This cost shifting eventually shows up as ever-more-expensive health insurance premiums. Expanding Medicaid will thus reduce the amount of charity care that hospitals need to provide, and in turn will reduce costs for everyone else.

As a physician, a Mainer and a taxpayer, I urge you to vote “yes” on statewide Question 2 on Nov. 7. A “yes” vote is good for the health of over 70,000 Mainers, our hospitals and clinics, our state economy and your wallet. My new patient, along with 70,000 fellow Mainers, needs our help.