Rural communities across Maine are grappling with growing disparities in accessing health care services. We are the nation’s oldest and most rural state, meaning issues related to health care impact Maine disproportionately. Having lived in both rural Maine and Cumberland County, I can attest to how these gaps are accelerating.

Among the issues in closing the gap between rural and urban health care is Medicare’s reluctance to cover anti-obesity medications. This gap leaves thousands of Maine seniors at a disadvantage and deprives them of vital preventive medicines that are proven to extend the quality of life.

While unfair to seniors, this gap also increases health care costs for everyone. Obesity leads to numerous debilitating medical ailments, including heart disease, diabetes and cancer. These conditions eventually strain our health care system, raising prices for every Mainer.

Like with many health care issues, obesity has a unique impact on rural communities. Health care options are already limited and older Americans, which make up a large portion of rural populations, are particularly susceptible to obesity and its effects.

These medicines are game-changers, but they are expensive, costing upwards of $1,000 out of pocket monthly. Most employer-based insurances cover anti-obesity drugs, but not Medicare. So seniors, unlike younger Americans, are forced to forgo these lifesaving treatments when they need them most.

Congress is considering legislation to close the Medicare gap. This bill would save and improve lives, help Maine’s families and lower health care costs. Maine’s representatives in Washington, like Sen. Susan Collins, should support this legislative push to close this gap in Medicare and help Maine seniors live a better quality of life without bankrupting their retirement.

Roy Grice

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