CONTRIBUTORS

Universal health care good for the economy

Posted Aug. 20, 2012, at 3:37 p.m.

As a pharmacist here in Aroostook, I frequently see heartbreaking examples of people who can’t afford to pay for necessary health care. A farmer, worried about his raspy voice, did not seek health care because he had no health insurance. Finally, his wife went to work for Burrelle’s in order to get insurance. By the time he was diagnosed with throat cancer and started to get treatment, it was too late, and he died within four to six months. Another man without insurance, diagnosed with cancer, decided not to get treatment rather than risk leaving his family with the burden of debt. He, too, died within six months. A young woman disabled by schizophrenia was kicked off Medicaid under new restrictions imposed by the state of Maine. Her mother does not know how the family will pay for her medication, which can cost into the thousands of dollars a month for people with serious mental illnesses. Another fellow with a small-engines repair business works every day, but can’t afford the high costs of individual insurance and was dropped from Medicaid as a childless adult. He has serious health problems including diabetes and carotid arteries, and he has to go to Canada to buy medications he can afford.

With such widespread need for affordable health care for everyone, I don’t see how Maine can afford to cut Medicaid instead of expanding it as provided for in the Affordable Health Care act. Such an expansion would alleviate some of these problems. Instead of reforming the system to better provide health care that is more affordable, better quality and more efficient, Maine under this administration is taking whole groups of people off DHHS programs who have no other way to pay for health care. The patient with schizophrenia is young. With proper care now, many of these patients will recover enough to go to work and become taxpayers. Without treatment, they are far more likely to remain permanently disabled.

It’s the saddest thing to me that Maine is attacking health care to balance the budget and giving tax breaks to the richest 1 percent. At the same time, we are failing to improve our economy. For every dollar spent on Medicaid, the state gets two to three dollars back from the federal government. This money is spent right here in the state and creates jobs in the health care industry, long-term jobs with good benefits, clean jobs that don’t pollute the environment. Maine has the oldest population in the nation on average and is very close to having the largest number of retirees with only Florida having more by a small percent. Considering that, you can’t find a better job creator than the health care industry.

Ultimately, we need a universal, single-payer system to better compete globally. The Aroostook logging industry suffers in competition with Canada. Their workers can work for cheaper wages and still come out ahead because they have a universal single-payer system. Sixty percent of bankruptcies nationwide are caused by health care problems. Over 50 percent of personal bankruptcies are caused by health care costs. We need a single-payer system to compete globally.

According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, “The United States has the highest per capita health expenditures of any country in the OECD [Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development]. The U.S. spends 15.7 percent of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP) on health care compared to 8.4 percent for the United Kingdom, 8.1 percent for Japan, 10.4 percent for Germany, and 10.1 percent for Canada. Yet all the other countries mentioned have a higher life expectancy at birth and lower infant mortality rate than the U.S.” ( http://suite101.com/article/universal-health-care-how-other-nations-compare-to-us-a289836).

All evidence I know of supports that universal health care makes people happier, healthier, less stressed and less prone to violence. If elected to the Maine House of Representatives, I will work for better health care for all because it is the right humanitarian thing to do and because it is the right thing to do for our economy.

Darrell Adams is a 2012 Democratic candidate for District 6 of the Maine State House of Representatives including Blaine, Bridgewater, Easton, Fort Fairfield, Mars Hill and Westfield.

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