PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — In small numbers but with a strong voice, MoveOn members at a gathering in the city Wednesday afternoon stressed that U.S. Sen. Olympia Snowe needs to support national health care reform legislation with a public health insurance option.
MoveOn members from across the state held press conferences outside of Snowe’s six Maine offices during the day to release a new report that members say clearly lays out the economic benefits of health care reform with a public option to Maine residents.
MoveOn aims to bring Americans into politics to fight for a more progressive America and elect progressive candidates, according to its Web site, MoveOn.org. It is powered by 5 million Americans, including 25,000 members in Maine.
In Presque Isle, four MoveOn members stood in front of Snowe’s Academy Street office, waving signs and urging support for reform with a public option. Motorists passing by beeped their horns and craned their necks for a better view of the group and their signs.
The group presented a copy of the report to staffers inside Snowe’s office.
According to the report, health care reform legislation with a public health insurance option would save Maine families $2,229 more annually than legislation without a public option, and would cover 125,000 people in Maine who now lack health care coverage.
U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Nevada Democrat, said this week that he would push for a health care bill that has a public option but also allows states to opt out of that provision.
Supporters say a public option would lower health care costs and offer more affordable, high-quality choices for families, individuals and small businesses.
Opponents say a public option would drive private insurers out of the market and eventually lead to a government takeover of the health care system.
MoveOn members said earlier this week that insurance and HMO interests are spending nearly $5 million per week fighting health care reform, and one of their top targets is the public health insurance option.
Linda Griffith, a MoveOn member from Blaine who attended the Presque Isle gathering, agreed that a public option is vital to the legislation. She noted that Snowe has opposed giving Americans the choice of a public health insurance option.
“Sen. Snowe really needs to support a public option,” she said. “Health care reform is desperately needed, and it needs to be done so that it benefits all Americans.”
Mainers support a public option by 63 percent to 27 percent, according to a recent poll of registered voters released by Democracy Corps.
Blaine resident Joanne Young pointed out that Snowe has twice voted against giving Mainers the choice of a public health insurance option.
“The public option is going to save the taxpayers money,” she said. “I just do not understand why she does not support this when the majority of people in Maine want this. Why does she want to shoot this bill down?”
Young reiterated that reform needs to come sooner rather than later.
“If we do not get this done now, we won’t see it get done for another 40 years,” she added.
In southern Maine, Kathy Missal, a MoveOn member who organized the Auburn rally, noted that Snowe “is now the primary national obstacle standing between us and health care reform with a strong public option.”
“But Mainers strongly support a public option, so if Sen. Snowe isn’t representing us, whose side is she on?” she questioned.
John Gentzel, director of communications for Snowe, maintained that as the process moves forward, the senator “will do as she always has and make decisions and advocate for policies and reforms she believes are in the best interest of her fellow Mainers, the American people and the nation as a whole.”
“Sen. Snowe has played a critical role in crafting health reform legislation during the last five months, including daily meetings as part of the bipartisan Group of 6 and throughout a two-week Finance Committee markup,” Gentzel said Wednesday afternoon. “She continues to work to find common ground on health reform that will provide access to high-quality, affordable health care coverage. Throughout this debate, Sen. Snowe has emphasized that we must first reform health insurance, and if plans then fail to offer affordable coverage in a state, a safety net, fallback plan would be offered without delay.”
Presque Isle resident Alice Bolstridge said she had been speaking out in favor of health care reform all summer and would continue to do so.
“Right now, the whole health care system is a huge mess,” she said Wednesday afternoon. “I want affordable coverage for myself and everyone else. I support a public option, and I want Snowe to support it as well.”
MoveOn also scheduled press conferences Wednesday at Snowe’s offices in Bangor, Augusta, Auburn, Portland and Biddeford.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.