Mainers Urge Lawmakers to Expand Medicare (Pix, Video)

Posted on January 9, 2014. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Yesterday the 126th Maine Legislature reconvened to begin the second half of the legislative session. At the same time, hundreds of people from around the state came to Augusta to hold a rally organized by Maine People’s Alliance coalition members, hear the life stories of almost two dozen fellow citizens, and urge lawmakers to support expansion of Medicare for 70,000 Mainers as part of the Health Care First initiative.

Almost two dozen came to the mic to speak at the rally; here is a full clip from the event held in the State House’s Hall of Flags.

    “As a nurse, many of the patients I see every day wait until they are so sick that we can’t help them the way that we should and their health deteriorates even more,” said Jessie Mellott, a Registered Nurse from Bangor, introducing the speakers. “They lose limbs. They may never get back to their previous health due to lack of access to care. A lot of the time, these are easy things to fix if they were addressed in time. I urge the legislature to help me care for my patients and take the important step of expanding Medicaid services for 70,000 Maine people.”

    gina“I am a veteran of the U.S. Navy and lost my MaineCare coverage on December 31st,” said Thomas Ptacek of Portland. “My family has a history of multiple sclerosis and I worry that I, too, may have it someday. But my VA benefits are limited and will not cover the cost of preventative care or any treatment for the disease. I need MaineCare for that.”

    “When I found out I had seriously aggressive cancer I was able to access MaineCare and that was life-saving for me,” said Laura Tasheiko of Northport. “I was dropped and left without coverage as I continue my recovery from the ongoing and debilitating effects of cancer, surgery, and chemotherapy treatment. MaineCare is essential for the monitoring and care needed to avoid a medical crisis from medication complications, or even death, in the event of the cancer coming back.”

    “Without MaineCare, my injuries will just keep getting worse and worse. I’ll just keep going until I can’t go anymore and then they’ll throw you to the wolves, I guess,” said Richard Holt, a lobsterman and carpenter living in South Portland, “I need it to make sure I can stay healthy enough to keep working for at least another 4 years before I qualify for Medicare.”

More quotes from Bangor Daily News:

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    One of those speakers was Gail MacLean, who boards horses at her stable in Gray. MacLean said she has been on Medicaid for three years, but lost her coverage on Dec. 31 as a result of the state not expanding the program, known as MaineCare in the state.

    “Now I’m tip-toeing around the farm, hoping I don’t hurt myself,” she said. “My fear is that if something happens, I’ll lose what I’ve worked so hard for.”

    Another man, Tom Bennie, a farmer and handyman from Whitefield, said MaineCare paid for his full hip replacement in 2010, and helped his wife recover from a heart attack shortly thereafter.

    “If it weren’t for MaineCare, I wouldn’t be able to stand here today,” he said. “My health is all I have. That’s the most important thing. MaineCare gave me a sense of security.”

    Rep. Jeffrey Evangelos, I-Friendship, is co-sponsor of Eves’ Medicaid expansion bill, which legislative Republicans and LePage have vowed to defeat again this year. He called on the governor to follow the example of other GOP executives, such as New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer, who in their states accepted Medicaid expansion as allowed by President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act.

    He called the showing by MPA “impressive.”

    “I think it’s a real statement to the moderate Republicans to get on board,” he said. “If Gov. LePage vetoes this bill again, I expect them to support us in overriding.”

Later after the end of the beginning day of session, Senate President Justin Alfond and Speaker of the House Mark Eves spoke to those assembled:

    “Today in the halls of the State House, we heard why expanding health care to tens of thousands of Mainers is a top priority. The stakes are high—people’s lives and well-being are on the line,” said Senate President Justin Alfond of Portland. “Expanding healthcare is the right thing to do morally and it’s the right economic decision. Making sure folks have access to healthcare without the fear of going bankrupt is something we all value and it’s something we will continue fighting for.”

    “We are so grateful to the people who came today to talk to lawmakers about the importance of this life-saving health care,” said Speaker of the House Mark Eves of North Berwick, who is sponsoring a new measure to accept federal Medicaid dollars under the Affordable Care Act. “What we heard today is what we hear from our neighbors at home: people want and need life-saving health care. They don’t understand why politics and ideology are holding up common sense care.”

A public hearing will be held by the HHS Committee (Cross Building Rm 209) on January 15 regarding Speaker Eves’ and Senate Majority Leader Troy Jackson’s Medicaid expansion proposals. More pictures from yesterday can be found here.

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