Last week, lawmakers on the state’s health committee held a public hearing on a bill to accept federal funds to increase health care coverage in Maine. This money is available to each state under the Affordable Care Act, and if Maine does not accept it, the funds will go to the taxpayers of other states.
This measure will accomplish three things: it will create jobs here in Maine, it will save our state money, and most importantly, it will improve the quality of life and health for Mainers who would not otherwise have access to health care.
Accepting federal funds to increase health care coverage would create more than 3,100 jobs in Maine, and many of these would be within the healthcare industry itself. As you know, our state’s economy has been slow to recover from the recession. Officially, more than 50,000 Mainers are still struggling to find work, and desperately need the jobs this measure could create.
In addition to creating jobs here in Maine, accepting federal funds will save our state money. According to the nonpartisan Kaiser Foundation and the conservative Heritage Foundation, Maine will save $690 million in the next 10 years.
Finally, accepting federal funds will provide health care coverage to 69,500 Mainers who are currently without health insurance, including 7,000 veterans across our state. Unfortunately, for Mainers who lack health care coverage they are currently more likely to seek care through more expensive and often less effective avenues. The fact is emergency rooms are more expensive than the doctor’s office, but many folks who don’t have insurance also do not have a family doctor. By increasing access to health care in Maine, we ensure more Mainers have access to primary care, and it brings us one step closer to providing a family doctor for every family.
Many organizations across the state have been advocating for acceptance of these dollars including the Maine Medical Association, Maine Equal Justice Partners, Maine Veterans of Foreign Wars, Maine Center for Economic Policy, and Maine Hospital Association.
This is not a partisan idea, even conservative governors of states like Florida have taken the feds up on their offer.
The conversation surrounding these funds is ongoing. The governor has indicated he sees merits in accepting these federal dollars, but is pressuring the federal government for more money. It is my hope that the governor understands the jobs this will create, the savings our state will see, and the almost 70,000 Mainers who will have access to health care, and agrees to accept the federal funds.
We have a choice: we can save our state money, create jobs, and help tens of thousands of our neighbors, or we can turn our backs and do nothing. I urge the governor and my fellow lawmakers to support this bill and accept federal funds to expand healthcare coverage.
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