Support Obama’s health plan

Posted Sept. 16, 2009, at 7:43 p.m.

It’s time to act. It’s time for Maine’s congressional delegation to get behind President Obama’s plan for health care reform. It’s time we establish a sensible system that will bring down the crushing cost of health care. We need to come together and pass reform that will fulfill our moral obligation as a society to ensure that every Mainer and every American has access to quality affordable health care.

For reform to lower costs successfully and provide quality care, we need to confront the core of the problem, the lack of competition in the insurance industry. The public option does just that. By lowering overhead, an unsubsidized public option can provide a better deal for the consumer and pressure the entire industry to become more efficient.

For those of us who already have insurance, including seniors, the president’s plan will provide greater security and stability.

A recent study by the California Nurses Association pointed out that one in three insurance claims is denied by insurers. That means that even those of us with health insurance, on the average, are insured for only two-thirds of the procedures and medications ordered by our doctors. The president’s plan will put an end to insurance companies canceling plans during treatment. It will reduce the number of denied claims through competition and stop insurance companies from denying coverage for pre-existing conditions.

For seniors, Medicare would be able to save money through ending wasteful spending on co-payments to private Medicare Advantage plans. The industrywide cost-saving measures would translate into lower costs for Medicare as well. The health care of seniors, who have worked hard all their lives, will not be compromised.

Opponents of reform have argued that now is not the time because of the state of our deficit and the state of our economy. To the contrary, that is exactly why we must act now to reform health care. Every 30 seconds an American family declares bankruptcy due to medical bills.

Thousands of Americans are denied lifesaving treatment because of an inability to pay. The cost of health care continues to rise far faster than the wages of working Americans. Simultaneously our nation’s budget deficit is swelling with every year because of the cost of health care.

Businesses are affected as well. Small businesses that seek to do right by their employees are confronted with prohibitive costs. Companies that would provide badly needed jobs for Mainers continue to opt for our neighbors to the north because of health care costs. The entrepreneurial spirit of Mainers who want to start their own business has been dampened by the cold fact that paying for individual health insurance is astronomically expensive.

We are the only wealthy democracy on Earth that does not take care of its own. We’ve stormed the beaches of Normandy and Iwo Jima. We’ve put a man on the moon and we have conquered innumerable other challenges. Now it’s time to take care of one another. President Barack Obama’s plan for health care reform is critical in moving forward as a society. We as Mainers must lead the way.

Harriet Spencer is the president of AFSCME Council 93, which represents public employees throughout Maine.

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