LETTERS

Wednesday, Jan. 15, 2014: Health care, religious freedom, abandoning pets

Posted Jan. 14, 2014, at 1:35 p.m.

Health stakes

Ohio Gov. John Kasich, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer and Maine Gov. Paul LePage: Conservative Republicans all, but only LePage has refused to accept federal funding to expand Medicaid (MaineCare here.)

The governor’s dig-in-your-heels stance makes no sense in either fiscal policy or health policy. The federal government would fully fund expanding MaineCare to some 70,000 Mainers who fall into a policy gap that denies them coverage and makes them vulnerable to illness, premature death and medical bankruptcy.

Is scoring a partisan political point worth the human damage? Might not LePage take instruction from Kasich, who said, “[Medicaid expansion is] going to save lives. It’s going to help people. … What’s more important than that?”

The Legislature in its last session passed MaineCare expansion with enthusiasm, but it was vetoed by the governor, upheld by a handful of votes. Now there is a new bill — LD 1578 — which will have a hearing on Wednesday, Jan. 15.

It’s LD 1578, An Act to Increase Health Security by Expanding Federally Funded Health Care for Maine People. Call your legislators, attend the hearing, write a letter to the editor and make your views known. Vote “yes.” Maine’s health is at stake.

Kent Price

Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Castine

Maine UU State Advocacy Network

Orland

 

Expand coverage

The Maine Council of Churches is an association of nine denominations, from the Roman Catholics to the Unitarian Universalists, who work together to find common ground and improve the common good. One of the places we find agreement is in the need for health care for all Mainers. To us, it is a basic human right and a moral imperative that we provide health care for all, especially for the most vulnerable among us.

It is, ultimately, how we will be judged:

“For I was hungry and you did feed me; I was thirsty and you gave me to drink. I was naked and you clothed me; I was sick and in prison and you did visit me.”

We are required, even commanded, to love our neighbors. What does love require of us? To feed the hungry, to clothe the naked, to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable. We have a responsibility to and for each other. We urge our elected representatives to expand health care to as many needy neighbors as possible. We note that even Republican governors who agreed to accept federal funds to increase coverage cited their religious convictions and faith as the compelling reason to offer health care to as many of their residents as possible.

Maine should do no less and, we believe, should be doing more. Please join us in urging our Legislature to support accepting expanded health care coverage to our neighbors, families and friends.

Leslie Manning

President of the Board

Maine Council of Churches

Bath

Close the loophole

I’m writing in support of proposed legislation to ensure that working Mainers have health insurance and to bring millions of dollars in economic growth to our state. The upcoming bill, LD 1578, is an opportunity to close a loophole in the Affordable Care Act which leaves nearly 70,000 Mainers without health insurance.

The ACA allows federal dollars to expand Medicaid for the working poor, people who don’t earn enough to pay for insurance or receive subsidies for premiums. Federal dollars would pay 100 percent of costs for the first three years, then at least 90 percent of costs. We can always opt out in the future.

This bill would improve our state’s economy. In Penobscot County, there are estimates of $45 million to $66 million in income from health care expenditures over the next two years. We would see increases in wellness because of continuity of care.

As a patient advocate for Mainers with multiple sclerosis, I understand the challenges of falling through the health care system’s cracks. I urge policy makers in Augusta to make health care equal for all Mainers and bring economic growth to our state.

Elizabeth Hope

Maine Government Relations Committee,

National MS Society

Yarmouth

Religious freedom

On Jan. 7, the BDN opposed a bill to “preserve religious freedom.” This bill would require a “compelling governmental interest” in whatever legal behavior is required before the law may impact a person’s religious beliefs or activities. This is the same legal standard that must currently be applied before a law may interfere with various classes of people including race, sex, creed and national origin.

The editorial posits the possibility that religion may be used to justify illegal discrimination. The bill, however, would require there to be a “compelling governmental interest” in support of a law before it may interfere with religion. There is certainly a compelling governmental interest to eliminate race discrimination, but conversely, there may not be a compelling governmental interest to prohibit individuals from wearing religious insignia to work or to school. The prospect of using religion to sponsor bigotry is a red herring.

The bill seeks to address a Supreme Court ruling that allows laws that have an indirect impact on religion to survive constitutional scrutiny. Under this ruling, a local zoning ordinance could prohibit a church from operating a radio station in a zone where churches are permitted but not radio stations. What is the valid compelling state interest in denying the church a permit to house a radio station as part of its religious mission?

The bill aims to ensure there is a good reason for the application of a law that may impact the exercise of religion.

Brett D. Baber

Veazie

Alternative choices

How could someone — in this case a tenant in Ashland — abandon five innocent animals without heat, food and water? How could another person abandon 12? If people cannot pay their rent, what are they doing with pets they cannot afford to properly take care of?

People should take them to an animal shelter or notify authorities, not leave them to die a cruel, inhumane death. There are always alternatives and choices; one does not have to be cold-blooded and wicked.

Sylvia Tapley

Penobscot

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