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Single Payer Health Care
09/03/2013   Reported By: A.J. Higgins

Supporters of a single payer national health care system kicked off an eight-city tour in Augusta today. Members of the Drive for Universal Healthcare organization also expressed support for a bill that will be taken up next year at the State House that would establish a single payer system in Maine modeled after a similar program in Vermont. Both plans face opposition from critics who say Maine can't afford universal health care.

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Even Sue Saltmarsh, the founder of the Drive for Universal Healthcare organization, admits that promoting a group with the acronym of D-U-H 'spell out the letters' may not evoke admiration and respect 'does raise some eyebrows and cause a few snickers?'. But then again, the Chicago resident also sees its value.

"It's sort of a universal word that people understand for universal healthcare," Saltmarsh said. Does America need a new healthcare system? Duuh-uhh."

During a State House press conference, Saltmarsh recounted her own personal healthcare crisis that left her $30,000 dollars in debt. Realizing that a national health care plan similar to the government sponsored program in Canada is a difficult sell in Washington, Saltmarsh says she now wants to build new support at the local level.

"I can't change the world, but I'm determined to change all the towns I'm going to and I'm hoping that along the way, people will get in their cars and drive for an hour or two, go home and talk about it to their neighbors and get encouraged and energized to be a part of the movement actively," Saltmarsh said.

Saltmarsh is being supported in her universal health care effort by Maine AllCare spokesman, Fred Horch, of Brunswick. A former businessman, Horch says the essential problem with the American healthcare system is that it is TIED to individual employment -- rather than perceived as a business expense that should be underwritten by the state or federal government.

"In our country -- in contrast to other developed countries, we have tied health insurance to employment status," Horch said. "This puts an enormous burden on our small business community and of course magnifies the impact of losing your job, putting enormous and unnecessary stress and strain on our peoples and family," Horch said.

That's why Horch and DUH support LD 1345, a bill to establish a single payer plan in Maine sponsored by state Rep. Charles Priest. a Brunswick Democrat. He says his bill -- which was carried over last spring to next year's legislative session -- has been revamped to resemble a more measured approach currently being undertaken in Vermont.

"It builds off the Affordable Care Act which we think needs to be implemented statewide and not federally, but it also provides for a Maine health plan which is set up with the advice of an advisory committee which helps to plan this health plan," Priest said.

"Maine simply can't afford it -- it's as simple as that," said former state Rep. Jon McKane.

Former Republican state representative -- and longtime universal health care foe -- Jon McKane of Newcastle says the costs associated with a universal plan would be prohibitively expensive for Maine to go it alone. Dan Bernier, a lobbyist for the Maine Insurance Agents Association agrees. He says there are darker consequences for those in countries with national health care plans.

When you make health care free, people will consume more of it and when people consume more of it you then need to find a way to control consumption," Bernier said. "So a government run system ultimately leads to government rationing."

Members of the Drive for Universal Healthcare organization plan to visit with supporters tomorrow in Vermont.



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