Democratic Radio Address of Rep. Jane Pringle (Windham): Provide Access to Life-Saving Care to 70,000 Mainers

Posted on March 22, 2014. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , |

Audio link here.

    REP. PRINGLE: PROVIDE ACCESS TO LIFE-SAVING CARE TO 70,000 MAINERS
    Expansion would create 4,400 jobs, more than a half billion dollars in economic activity

jane pringleOur state has the opportunity to expand the security of health care coverage to 70,000 Mainers. It’s an opportunity that we can’t afford to pass up.

Good morning. I’m Representative Jane Pringle of Windham. Thank you for tuning in.

I’m serving in the Legislature because I want more Mainers to have access to health care.

I was a primary care doctor for 36 years and was also the medical director of a clinic that served many working-class patients. I saw the number of uninsured Mainers growing and how these Mainers were harmed by their lack of coverage. They could not get the care they needed until they were in crisis, and sometimes not until it was too late to save their lives.

It doesn’t have to be this way. If we accept the federal government’s offer, Mainers will be healthier, health care costs will go down for all of us and our economy will benefit. In fact, health care expansion is expected to create 4,400 jobs and generate more than a half billion dollars in economic activity in Maine by 2016.

Over the course of my career, I learned that some illnesses result from genetics and others from habits. But two-thirds of the time, the reasons are unclear; it’s not a result of something we did wrong. Fortunately, medical science has found many treatments to cure and manage these illnesses. The sad thing is that not everyone has access to care that can save lives.

When I first learned that some leaders in Maine were against health care expansion, I thought it was because the Legislature didn’t have enough people with health care backgrounds who saw firsthand the consequences of having to go without care.

I’ve since heard arguments about how people could have health care if they just worked a little harder, got an additional job or were just more motivated.

Imagine coming to me as your doctor and telling me about having chest pain and trouble breathing. And what if I asked you whether you had worked hard enough that day to deserve to have me care for you?

My profession’s code of ethics calls for me to care for you – regardless of who you are and what you may or may not have done to be in your particular situation.

But right now, our state is denying health care coverage to 70,000 Mainers, including 2,700 veterans.

Their numbers include Mainers who struggle with serious and chronic illnesses like multiple sclerosis, diabetes and cancer.

Their numbers include Mainers who work hard in jobs that don’t provide health care insurance: custodians who clean up after us, servers who wait on us, cashiers who are on their feet all day and Mainers who try to piece together a living by doing carpentry and odd jobs.

Ten-thousand five-hundred very low-income Mainers lost their coverage at the start of this year because of Maine’s failure to expand health care. They are eligible for neither MaineCare nor insurance on the federal health care exchange.

The others – who are also low-income – do not qualify for subsidies on the exchange even though people with greater earnings do qualify. It’s because we didn’t expand health care as anticipated by the Affordable Health Care Act.

We do have the ability to make a difference for these Mainers – to provide access to life-changing health care that can reduce disability, help more people work and – yes – save lives.

We have the power to do this. We just have to make the right choice.

Thank you for listening. This is Representative Jane Pringle of Windham.

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Rep. Anne Graham (D- N Yarmouth) in support of LD 1487: Health Care Coverage a Life or Death Matter

Posted on March 21, 2014. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , |

Here is the floor speech of Rep. Anne Graham (D- N Yarmouth) supporting LD 1487, “An Act To Implement Managed Care in the MaineCare Program”.

Thank you Mr. Speaker.

Ladies and Gentlemen of the House, what would you do if you have lied awake for countless nights because you feared you would lose your life or your loved ones’ life? You (or your wife) found a lump in their breast a while ago but were afraid to go to the doctor not because of the fear that it was cancer but because your family could not afford to get the care that you needed? What would you do when that mole that you have on your arm is changing and you just hope it is just dry skin and it will go away? You can’t sleep because if you have it checked it might be melanoma and it will likely open the door to bankruptcy. How do you decide? Get care or go broke?

It is a matter of life or death for those people we deny health care coverage to.

Gail McLean is a member of my community. She is the model of a self-made woman. She built her farm and her home with her own two hands. She doesn’t ask for a hand out. What she asks for is to not face complete financial ruin if she is injured or she is diagnosed with a severe illness like cancer. She lives a healthy lifestyle. You won’t find her sitting on her couch drinking and smoking. She and many others like her are working hard to make a living. Are these the people we should deny healthcare?

I have heard the argument that these people could just go to the hospital or local clinic because they can’t turn anyone away. That is true but at what price? Do you honestly think that your insurance premiums won’t go up when hospitals raise their fees to cover the uninsured? And that local health clinic closes their door because they can’t continue to run in the red. Healthcare is not free. The solution is to accept the federal dollars that many other states have. States like Arizona, Michigan and New Hampshire have recognized that in it is the right fiscal thing to do and the right moral thing to do.

The argument that that everyone should go on the exchange is false. Yes, one can purchase an insurance plan for $50 per month with a $2,5000 deductable. When one makes less than $12,000 a year, this is an impossibility. Once again, lose your life or lose your livelihood. I ask, what choice would you make?

It saddens me deeply that this debate has become more about politics than about people. That is not why I am here. I venture to say that that is not why my constituents or yours sent us here. We have a common sense bipartisan compromise before us. A compromise that will save money by providing care in a smart cost effective way. We should embrace this compromise and not ignore the hard working farmers, weavers and fishermen who are just trying to make a living.

My friends, thank you for serving the people of our state. I ask you to have an open mind and really think about the impact the decision to deny health insurance to close to 70,000 fellow Maine neighbors will have. I am here to serve the people of my community and state as are you. I am not here to serve a political master and hold an unbending ideological stance. I admit this vote comes not just from my common sense but from my heart. I will vote to accept to federal dollars to cover more Mainers. I will sleep well tonight knowing that I stood for my neighbors and friends. I ask that you do the same.

Thank you ladies and gentlemen. Thank you Mr. Speaker.

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Rep. Katherine Cassidy (D-Lubec) on LD 1487: Washington County all about community, helping during tragedies

Posted on March 20, 2014. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , |

Video and prepared remarks from 3/18/14. Rep. Cassidy expanded upon her statement to reflect that Mrs. Salleroli would be finding out Wednesday the results of biopsies and testing done upon a newly discovered tumor on her liver.

Mr. Speaker, women and men of the House,

I want to tell you about Washington County, where I live, and specifically about two of the hardest working people I know in Washington County.

There’s a place in Eastport, a very funky café and bar called the Rose Garden.

During the summer and fall in 2012, and also in 2010 and 2008, during the campaign season, I would end up at the Rose Garden in late afternoon, after I finished knocking on doors in Eastport. I would ask for a root beer float, and relax a bit before heading home. That’s how I got to know Alan and Linda Salleroli, who own the Rose Garden. One or the other of them would fix my root beer float and ask about the work I wanted to do in Augusta, the issues that I cared most about. Just on Sunday, both Al and Linda worked the bar, and served up a proper St. Patrick’s Day celebration.

You always find them together these days, never apart.

That’s what spouses do, when one of them is diagnosed with cancer.

They go forward together, trying to appear as if everything is business as usual. Al and Linda put on a good game face – still always cheerful and mindful of their patrons and their community.

But things are different now at the Rose Garden. There’s still live music on weekends, and chili or rib cook-offs Sunday afternoons in winter, and open mic and poetry gatherings at other times. And the Rose Garden is still a place where everybody knows your name. And everybody also knows how Linda got cancer two years ago, and had one eye removed, and then things were good again because we all thought that Linda had beaten cancer.

The Sallerolis have owned the Rose Garden for 10 years, and Al Salleroli even took a turn as president of the Eastport Chamber of Commerce. But although they both still work seven days a week, they can’t afford health insurance.

As a cancer survivor, Linda continued to get check-ups, but after January 1, in order to receive charity care at the Lafayette Family CancerCare facility in Brewer, she first had to show that she had been denied MaineCare. And there is up to a 45-day wait to get a MaineCare eligibility determination. So while she was waiting 45 days to be told by the state of Maine that he did not qualify for MaineCare, just in order to be eligible for charity care, she missed an appointment with a cancer specialist, because she couldn’t afford it.

Three weeks ago, Linda learned the cancer has returned, and has spread. She is angry, and Alan is especially angry. Any one of us would be angry, too, if we got cancer, and if we didn’t have the health insurance that we get in our roles as state legislators.

I know how Alan and Linda feel. Just three years ago, my husband and I were living without health insurance, because we also were self-employed and we couldn’t afford it. Frank got cancer, and he died.

We were lucky, though, because Frank was a veteran, and he could turn to the VA, and Togus, for cancer treatment, and then hospice care.

But the Sallerolis don’t have any such option to turn to, except for the Maine Legislature, to ask for help with Linda’s cancer. So here I am, this morning, asking you, my legislative colleagues, on behalf of Alan and Linda Salleroli, to cast your vote to expand health care for Mainers such as Linda. Just like you, she’s a hard worker, and she’s a taxpayer and, like some of you, a small business owner and a community leader. And she deserves better.

Mr. Speaker, I don’t rise often to speak on the floor, but when I do, I stand up for Washington County, and I do so with pride because that’s where I live. Six of us in this Chamber represent Washington County, in fact, with a seventh serving in the Senate.

We can tell you about entire small towns where everybody knows your name, and how our four weekly newspapers frequently print photos of five generations of a family. In Washington County, we know that after the Eastern Maine basketball tournament every spring, caravans of cars honking horns and fire engines with sirens will arrive back in town at midnight. We love our local beauty pageants, our high school graduations, our Fourth of July parades, our countless quilt raffles as fundraisers, our festivals for blueberries and salmon and pirates. We support our American Legions that always serve a hunters’ breakfast, and churches that put on bean suppers no matter the time of year. We turn out by the hundreds for benefit suppers when tragedy visits an individual or family, whether we know them or not.

Washington County is all about community. And my personal definition of community is “the way we get by”. But I cannot tell you how my friends Al and Linda Salleroli are going to get by now, if we don’t have enough votes to expand health care across Maine. They’ve already put a portion of Linda’s cancer costs on their daughter’s credit card.

You have read all the numbers about Washington County. We have demographic differences, and we have health disparities with the rest of Maine. You know about our poverty, our unemployment, because you’ve seen the numbers in the Kids Count annual report. So, it hurts when others tell our Washington County people to “get a job”, as a way to get health care.

Nobody can dare tell Alan and Linda Salleroli to work any harder than they do.

What the individuals and families of Washington County, like the Sallerolis, share with all of you, is that we are all Mainers. And just as much as the rest of you, we also believe in that great motto for Maine – “the way life should be.”

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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Complete Video Record of Maine House Debates LD 1487, “An Act To Implement Managed Care in the MaineCare Program”

Posted on March 19, 2014. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , |

In chronological order, here are clips from this week’s House floor debate on LD 1487, “An Act To Implement Managed Care in the MaineCare Program”. The bill passed the chamber, but as in the Senate last week, narrowly failed to garner a veto proof majority.

Whenever possible, the full text of the prepared remarks has been linked to each clip; for others, either direct quotes or summaries as provided by House Democratic legislative aides online has been shared.

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HHS Chair Rep. Dick Farnsworth (D-Portland) Presents LD 1487

Rep. Corey Wilson (R-Augusta) supporting LD 1487

Rep. Deb Sanderson (R-Chelsea) opposing LD 1487 (pt 1)

Rep. Louis Luchini (D-Ellsworth) supporting LD 1487

Asst. Majority Leader Jeff McCabe (D-Skowhegan) in support of LD 1487 (full prepared remarks HERE)

    Rep. McCabe thanks lawmakers for this bipartisan effort. “This bipartisan health care bill can make a different to 70,000 Mainers — Our friends, our family, our neighbors.”

    Rep. Jeff McCabe on economic benefits of health care expansion: “Why not these jobs? Why not now? ”

Rep. Paul McGowan (D-York) supporting LD 1487

    Rep. Paul McGowan on health problems he had: “I had that health experience with the security of health insurance. Everybody in this chamber has the security of health insurance.”

    Rep. Paul McGowan: “Can you imagine living in a society where if your house caught on fire and you called the fire department, and they said I’m sorry, you don’t qualify?”

Rep. Helen Rankin (D-Hiram) supporting LD 1487

    Rep. Helen Rankin: “Our veterans who have sacrificed everything. Do we really turn away from them? I think not.”

    Rep. Rankin: “Who made us God to decide about the lives of these people who are so desperate? … I think it’s time for us to pay it forward.”

Rep. Heather Sirocki (R-Scarborough) opposing LD 1487 (pt 1)

Rep. Matt Pouliot (R-Augusta) supporting LD 1487

    Rep. Matt Pouliot: “This bill is a valiant attempt to find a middle ground, incorporating many principles that are important to me. … I will be supporting this motion.”

Rep. Craig Hickman (D-Winthrop) supporting LD 1487, pt 1

Rep. Craig Hickman (D-Winthrop) supporting LD 1487, pt 2

    Rep. Craig Hickman reading from a constituent letter: “Are we really going to let these people down and say tough luck you’re on your own?… We are a better nation than that. We are a more compassionate people than that.”

House Majority Leader Seth Berry (D-Bowdoinham) in support of LD 1487 (full prepared remarks HERE)

    Rep. Seth Berry: “Health care expansion makes good business sense. There’s also the human cost of denying health care to 70,000 Mainers.”

    Rep. Berry on his younger brother: “He is one of the most hardworking Mainers you’ll ever meet. He is one of the Mainers who fall into the coverage gap caused by our failure to expand health care.”

Rep. Bobbi Beavers (D-S Berwick) in support of LD 1487

    Rep. Roberta Beavers : “In York County alone, about 82 hundred more people will gain access to health care. An additional $43 million will be spent each year on health care services by 2016, stimulating about $59 million in additional economic activity and 513 new jobs in my county.”

Rep. Amy Volk (R-Scarborough) opposing LD 1487

Rep. Anne Graham (D- N Yarmouth) supporting LD 1487 (full remarks here)

    “The argument that that everyone should go on the exchange is false. Yes, one can purchase an insurance plan for $50 per month with a $2,5000 deductable. When one makes less than $12,000 a year, this is an impossibility. Once again, lose your life or lose your livelihood. I ask, what choice would you make?

    It saddens me deeply that this debate has become more about politics than about people.”

Rep. Dennis Keschl (R-Belgrade) opposing LD 1487

Rep. Dr. Jane Pringle (D-Windham) supporting LD 1487

    Rep. Jane Pringle, a retired doctor on why she’s in the Legislature: “I have watched the number of patients without health care grow. I have seen too many patients who could not get the health care they need until they were in crisis.”

    Rep. Pringle: “Imagine coming to me as your doctor with chest pain. And I say, ‘Have you worked hard enough today for me to give you health care?'”

    Rep. Pringle on the lack of belief in a system that will increase access, lower costs for all and save lives: “We have the power to do this. We just have to make this choice.”

Rep. Paulette Beaudoin (D-Biddeford) supporting LD 1487

Rep. Richard Malaby (R-Hancock) opposing LD 1487

Rep. Josh Plante (D-Berwick) supporting LD 1487

Rep. Dr. Ann Dorney (D-Norridgewock) supporting LD 1487

    Another patient of Rep. Dorney lost health coverage, ran out of insulin and ended up in the ICU with dangerously high blood sugars. The hospital gave her some insulin when she was well enough to leave.

Rep. Bernard Ayotte (R-Caswell) opposing LD 1487

Rep. Sheryl Briggs (D-Mexico) supporting LD 1487

Rep. Lisa Villa (D-Harrison) supporting LD 1487

Rep. Brian Jones (D-Freedom) supporting LD 1487 (full prepared remarks HERE)

    Rep. Brian Jones on health care needs in the community: “The collection plate in church and the donation jar in the store have demonstrated they cannot completely fulfill this purpose. Nor can directives to get a better job.”

Rep. Dr. Janice Cooper (D-Yarmouth) supporting LD 1487

Rep. Gay Grant (D-Gardiner) supporting LD 1487

Rep. Steve Moriarty (D-Portland) supporting LD 1487

Rep. Tom Longstaff (D-Waterville) supporting LD 1487

Rep. Nate Libby (D-Lewiston) supporting LD 1487

Rep. Katherine Cassidy (D-Lubec) supporting LD 1487 (full prepared remarks HERE)

    Rep. Katherine Cassidy about constituent with cancer: “They already put a portion of cancer treatment on their daughter’s credit card.”

Rep. Diane Russell (D-Portland) supporting LD 1487

Rep. James Campbell (U-Newfield) supporting LD 1487

Rep. Heather Sirocki (R-Scarborough) opposing LD 1487 (pt 2)

Questions posed through the Speaker during LD 1487 floor debate

Rep. Dick Campbell (R-Orrington) opposing LD 1487

Rep. Karen Kusiak (D-Fairfield) supporting LD 1487

Rep. Drew Gattine (D-Westbrook) supporting LD 1487

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Rep. Brian Jones (D-Freedom) on LD 1487 Opposition: “I got mine; good luck getting yours”

Posted on March 19, 2014. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , |

Here is video of are Rep. Jones’ floor speech and transcribed remarks as prepared for delivery.

Mr. Speaker, men and women of the House,

I rise to speak to the decisions that we must make and the actions that we must take, in light of the conflict between what we earnestly believe the right thing to do is and what we realistically can accomplish, between the ideal and the real constraints under which we work.

Is the legislation before us perfect? Of course not. Is it the best we can do for our citizens on this day, given its imperfections and our differences? Yes. Is there a viable alternative plan before us today? No.

I rise to speak of the values of the citizens I represent, and these values are visible and their benefits are tangible for all in our community to see.

Mr. Speaker, the citizens that I represent volunteer as firefighters and emergency medical personnel; we volunteer to teach the illiterate to read; we keep jumper cables, a chain, and a bucket of sand in our pickups to help those who have gone off the road in the winter. And we help the so-called worthy and the unworthy equally.

We collect donations and provide heating fuel for our neighbors, because we believe that no one should be cold in the winter. We have a vibrant volunteer food pantry, and we have community gardens because we believe no one should go hungry. And, we place a jar on the counter of our local general store to collect donations for a family who’s experienced misfortune or, most relevantly to this discussion, illness.

That every one of our fellow human beings should be healed when sick is a belief I know, Mr. Speaker, we all share. It’s essential to our nature of empathy and our understanding of compassion. But the collection plate in church and the donation jar in the general store have demonstrated they cannot completely fulfill this purpose. Nor have the directives to “work harder” or “get a better job” met this need.

We have heard today that we cannot afford, we do not have the money, to provide this remedy for our fellow men and women. Mr. Speaker, we cannot serve two masters: we will hate one and love the other; or we will be devoted to one and despise the other. Mr. Speaker, either we serve the master of compassion or we serve the master of money. We choose today whom we will serve, the master of benevolence or the master of selfishness, and today eternity is witness to our actions.

Mr. Speaker, the worship of the ancient golden calf has returned in a new and ruthless guise in the idolatry of money and the dictatorship of an impersonal economy and a government lacking a truly human purpose. We have drunk from the fountainhead of personal enrichment and the philosophy of “I got mine; good luck getting yours.”

Mr. Speaker, heaven have mercy on my soul if, on my travels from Jerusalem to Jericho, I pass by on the other side of the road when I see a man, beaten and naked in the ditch.

Mr. Speaker, the dignity of each human person and the pursuit of the common good are concerns which ought to shape all of our policies, even if the instrument before us is imperfect.

Mr. Speaker, I ask each member of this body to consider his or her conscience and faith when we vote.

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House Majority Leader Seth Berry (D-Bowdoinham) in support of LD 1487: Expansion is “Economic Shot in Arm” for Maine

Posted on March 19, 2014. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , |

Video from 3/18/14 and remarks as prepared for delivery on LD 1487, “An Act To Implement Managed Care in the MaineCare Program”. The bill passed the House by a 07-49 vote.



Mr. Speaker; men and women of the House. I rise in favor of the pending motion.

As House chair of the Joint Select Committee on Maine’s Workforce and Economic Future, I would like to draw your attention to the economic benefits of this measure. Health care expansion fits perfectly with the major focus of our workforce panel: high-demand, high-wage jobs, the jobs of tomorrow.

If Maine accepts the federal health care dollars, we say “yes” to 4,400 jobs. Most of these are in the health care sector. They are good-paying jobs where workers earn enough to more than cover the basics, jobs where they earn enough to spend on local businesses and boost other sectors of our economy.

Maine is lagging behind the nation in job creation. We’re at the back of the pack.
This bill is that economic shot in the arm. If we accept the federal government’s offer, we would inject money into our economy. My own Sagadahoc County would see an additional $8 million annually, which in turn would stimulate another $3 million in additional economic activity.

Health care expansion makes good business sense.

There’s also a great human cost of denying health care to 70,000 Mainers. This is not an abstract issue, it’s one that’s close to home. For all of us. If we fail, we will see the results vividly and in some cases, tragically.

My younger brother is a logger and a farmer. He is as hardworking a Mainer as you’ll meet. He is also one of the Mainers who fall into the coverage gap created by the failure to expand health care. I worry about him. An accident could be both physically and financially disastrous.

One time, he was alone doing some tree work and the branch he was on broke. He came crashing down fifteen feet and landed on his chainsaw. It wasn’t running, but its chain was well sharpened and his forearm was nicely opened up. He bled profusely, and needed stitches. Frankly, it was a miracle he didn’t die. If my brother is injured again, whether while baling hay or working with his oxen or felling trees, I want to know he has health care.

If he doesn’t feel right and develops a condition, I also don’t want him to put it off until it becomes worse — more serious, more expensive, more dangerous to him and to our health care system. I want him to have access to preventive care, so he is healthier and we don’t all pay more for him later in our insurance rates.

Please join me in supporting this motion.

Let’s give Maine this shot in the arm. And Mr. Speaker, men and women of the House, let’s do it together.

I urge you to follow my light. Thank you.

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Asst Majority Leader Jeff McCabe (D-Skowhegan) in support of LD 1487: “Good deal for Maine, one that we can’t afford to give up”

Posted on March 19, 2014. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , |

Video and remarks as prepared for delivery.

Mr. Speaker, men and women of the House, I rise in support of the pending motion.

I want to recognize all the bipartisan effort that went into this measure. Thank you Mr. Speaker for your tireless work to provide 70,000 Mainers with the security of health care coverage. Thank you to the lawmakers, especially our Republican colleagues across the aisle, who see the value of providing access to a family doctor for more Maine people.

This bipartisan health care bill can make all the difference to 70,000 Mainers – our friends, family and neighbors. Mainers who work hard in jobs without health coverage, veterans who have more than earned such coverage through their service to our country.

Right now, the National Multiple Sclerosis Foundation is downstairs. Health care expansion will help people with M-S. It will serve Mainers with one of the most expensive chronic diseases, a disease that often forces them to stop working.

This bill is good for them and tens of thousands of other Mainers.

And it’s good for economy. It will result in more than $1 million of economic activity per day. It would create 4,400 jobs.

This is good news when Maine’s job creation is sorely lagging. This is good news particularly for rural Maine, which needs the economy really needs the boost.

In Somerset County, where I live, 3,590 Maine people would gain access to health care. This bill would create more than 200 new jobs in a county where unemployment is higher than the state as a whole. This bill would lead to $19 million in health care spending that would stimulate another $23 million in additional economic activity.

Aroostook County would see 4,615 people gain coverage, 280 news jobs and $25 million in annual health care spending that would lead to another $31 million more in economic activity.

And here in Kennebec County, we would see some more impressive results. 6,000 more Maine people with health care, 367 new jobs and $32 million in health care spending that could spur $43 million more in additional economic activity.

This is a good deal for Maine, one that we can’t afford to pass up.

I urge you to consider how much our state, your districts and constituents would gain from the federal government’s offer.

I know that this decision weighs especially heavily on several of our colleagues on the other side of the aisle.

I urge you to vote in support of the pending motion. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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Weekly Democratic Address by Senator Chris Johnson (Lincoln): LePage Should Sign Expansion; Improve, Perhaps Save Lives

Posted on March 15, 2014. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , |

Audio link here.

    DEMOCRATIC RADIO ADDRESS

    Johnson says, “Governor should sign expansion for the tens of thousands of Mainers whose lives will be improved, will be healthier, and perhaps even be saved.”

chris johnsonGood morning, this is State Senator Chris Johnson of Somerville. For the better part of a year there’s been considerable debate about whether or not Maine should join twenty-six other states in expanding health care to nearly 70,000 people in Maine.

Throughout this year-long debate, support for expansion has been strong. As a matter of fact, as of last week, a poll revealed that 61% of Mainers support the state expanding MaineCare health insurance to more Mainers, so that they too, can have access to life-saving health care.

Earlier this week, the Maine Senate voted in favor of advancing a Republican-sponsored measure to expand MaineCare but unfortunately, it did so without a veto-proof majority.

The 70,000 Mainers who would benefit from MaineCare expansion are our friends, neighbors, and family members. In my district, Lincoln County, I’ve heard from landscapers, carpenters, farmers, welders, and lobstermen–all of whom urged my support for expanding health care.

They are the people in our nursing homes taking care of our elderly; they are the people we see every week bagging our groceries; and, they are our veterans who have returned from Iraq or Afghanistan. They are working–and working hard–but simply aren’t earning more than $12 to 15 thousand dollars a year. They are the most financially destitute Mainers.

One person in her early sixties told me that expansion for her would mean that they would have preventative care for the first time in their adult life. She went on to say that her doctor has recommended tests and two procedures, but she has had to decline. She added: This worries me because we all know a lack of preventive care shortens people’s lifespans.

Expanding healthcare is a quality of life issue to ensure people have preventive care to stay healthy; instead of hoping they don’t get desperately ill.

We all agree that now is the time to start bending the curve downward on health care costs, and preventive care is an important step toward that goal. Even Maine’s hospitals agree. The Maine Hospital Association, the Maine Medical Association, and the Maine Primary Care Association have all endorsed expanding MaineCare health insurance. With this in mind, it makes expansion a win on quality of life and a win in the battle to curb overall healthcare costs.

It is also a win economically. Expanding healthcare would inject $250 million in federal dollars per year into Maine. And, by the way, that’s money that if Maine doesn’t use, some other state will. To date, because Maine hasn’t already expanded MaineCare like 26 other states, we have lost out on $74 million dollars in just 2014 alone. Said another way, for each day we have not expanded MaineCare, we lose one-million-per day.

Expanding healthcare would also create 4,500 jobs right here in Maine. As Senator Roger Katz said during the floor debate on the issue, if this were any other issue, we’d be cracking open the champagne bottle to celebrate such an economic win. He then added that even using the “e” word, expansion, is akin to fighting words lately.

In spite of the bipartisan compromise, expanding healthcare has become a partisan and at times, vitriolic issue for the GOP. But in my opinion, political games should never come before standing up for Maine people and doing right by them. Lawmakers from both sides of the aisle in all of the other New England states found a way to move beyond the rhetoric and worked together to move forward on doing what’s right for the people in their states.

I still hold out hope for our state…that next week when the Maine House takes up the issue that they too will pass the measure–and that when this compromise measure reaches Governor LePage’s desk, he will sign it. He will sign it, not for me, or any other lawmaker in the State House but he should sign it for 61% of Mainers who support expanding MaineCare health insurance. Most importantly, he should sign it for the tens of thousands of Mainers whose lives will be improved, will be healthier, and perhaps even be saved.

Thank you for listening. This is State Senator Chris Johnson of Somerville. Have a healthy and fantastic weekend.

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*RELATED: Maine Senate Debates LD 1487, “An Act To Implement Managed Care in the MaineCare Program” (VIDEOS)

ME Sen. Rodney Whittemore (R-Somerset) On LD 1487: Expansion A “Malignant Cancer Of Dependency”

Tweets On Maine Senate Debate Of LD 1487, GOP Medicaid Expansion (UPDATE: 22-13 Vote)

Maine Senate Takes Up LD 1487, GOP (Katz, Saviello) Medicaid Expansion Bill

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Maine Senate Debates LD 1487, “An Act To Implement Managed Care in the MaineCare Program” (VIDEOS)

Posted on March 15, 2014. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , |

Here is the entire Maine State Senate LD 1487 floor debate from 3/12/14, unedited and in order of speakers.

Sen. Margaret Craven (D-Androscoggin) Speaks in Support of LD 1487

Bill Sponsor Sen. Roger Katz (R-Kennebec) Speaks in Support of LD 1487

Sen. Dick Woodbury (I-Cumberland) Speaks in Support of LD 1487

Bill Sponsor Sen. Tom Saviello (R-Franklin) Speaks in Support of LD 1487 (PT 1)

Sen. Geoff Gratwick (D-Penobscot) Speaks in Support of LD 1487

Sen. James Hamper (R-Oxford) Speaks in Opposition to LD 1487 (PT 1)

Sen. Linda Valentino (D-Cumberland) Speaks in Support of LD 1487

Sen. Emily Cain (D-Penobscot) Speaks in Support of LD 1487

Sen. John Tuttle (D-York) Speaks in Support of LD 1487

Sen. David Burns (R-Washington) Speaks in Opposition to LD 1487

Sen. Colleen Lachowicz (D-Kennebec) Speaks in Support of LD 1487

Sen. David Dutremble (D-York) Speaks in Support of LD 1487

Sen. Jim Boyle (D-Cumberland) Speaks in Support of LD 1487

Sen. Garrett Mason (R-Androscoggin) Opposing LD 1487

Sen. Eloise Vitelli (D-Sagadahoc) Speaks in Support of LD 1487

Sen. Brian Langley (R-Hancock) Opposing LD 1487

Sen. Chris Johnson (D-Lincoln) Speaks in Support of LD 1487

Sen. Andre Cushing (R-Penobscot) Opposing LD 1487

Sen. Roger Sherman (R-Aroostook) Opposing LD 1487

Sen. John Patrick (D-Oxford) Speaks in Support of LD 1487

Senate Majority Leader Troy Jackson (D-Aroostook) Speaks in Support of LD 1487

Sen. Rodney Whittemore (R-Somerset) Opposing LD 1487

Sen. Rebecca Millet (D-Cumberland) Speaks in Support of LD 1487

ME Senate Minority Leader Mike Thibodeau (R-Waldo) Opposing LD 1487 (PT 1)

ME Senate Minority Leader Mike Thibodeau (R-Waldo) Opposing LD 1487 (PT 2)

Sen. Stan Gerzofsky (D-Cumberland) Speaking in Support of LD 1487

Sen. Doug Thomas (R-Somerset) Opposing LD 1487

Sen. James Hamper (R-Oxford) Opposing LD 1487 (PT 2)

Sen. Tom Saviello Speaking in Support of LD 1487 (PT 2)

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ME Sen. Rodney Whittemore (R-Somerset) on LD 1487: Expansion a “Malignant Cancer of Dependency”

Posted on March 13, 2014. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , |

UPDATE: Here is the video clip of Sen. Rodney Whittemore (R-Somerset) opposing LD 1487.

Senator Rodney Whittemore (R-Somerset) on LD 1487, “An Act To Implement Managed Care in the MaineCare Program”, gave a rather provocative floor speech yesterday, in which he compared the proposed bill sponsored by fellow GOP Senators Assistant Majority leader Roger Katz (R-Kennebec) and Tom Saviello (R-Franklin) to a “road of hopelessness” and a “malignant cancer of dependency”.

Here is an audio link to his testimony and transcription.

rodney whittemoreTESTIMONY OF SENATOR RODNEY WHITTEMORE (R-SOMERSET) OPPOSING LD 1487

    I rise today in opposition to the motion and I promise to be brief.

    I’m sure everyone in this chamber wants assurance that those who need and want medical care receive it.

    The truth is, most of them do now.

    There are two major problems with expanding Medicaid.

    First, based on the experience of the last expansion in 2001, which created a debt of more than a half a billion dollars to our hospitals, common sense indicates that to do this again would be critically irresponsible. We must instead continue to work with the Department of Health and Human Services to find more efficient and less expensive ways in providing healthcare to those folks who need it most.

    Second, to expand Medicaid under the federal rules would inflict a malignant cancer of dependency on thousands of Mainers, who could otherwise provide for themselves through the exchange or private insurance. In too many cases, this dependency erodes self esteem, discourages responsibility and motivation, creates a feeling of entitlement, and is a road to hopelessness.

    We can all agree that there are those who need help with their medical care cost. Many of those folks are on a waiting list, and some are receiving care already. A continued effort to find affordable and more efficient ways to provide care such as prevention, managed care, walk-in clinics, home care and others, would be a wiser choice.

    We must not be tempted again to expand Medicaid, which will inevitably take us down that road of hopelessness and financial self destruction.

    Thank you, Mr. President.

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