PORTLAND, Maine — Several Maine advocacy groups joined forces Thursday to launch a new grass-roots campaign for universal health insurance coverage.
At press conferences in Portland and Bangor, the coalition urged Mainers to work toward a new health care system that recognizes treatment for illness and disease as a human right. Represented organizations included the Maine People’s Alliance, Maine AFL-CIO and the Maine State Nurses Association.
About 45,000 Americans die every year due to a lack of health care, while 44 percent of Maine employers don’t offer health coverage, said Jennie Pirkl of the Maine People’s Alliance.
“For all the improvements of the Affordable Care Act, we still have a broken system where too many people are being left behind,” she said. “We can’t continue like this, and we can’t continue to let the for-profit insurance industry control so much of our government. We must recognize health care as a human right and organize to make things better.”
The coalition did not present a plan for achieving universal insurance coverage, but said their goal was to ensure that all Maine people have access to high-quality care and a greater voice in how the health care system is run.
Marie Pineo of Falmouth said she worries about her financial stability after her MaineCare coverage ceases in May following eligibility changes approved during the most recent legislative session.
“I have a heart condition that does not allow me to work full-time hours, which means I cannot hope to get lucky by finding one of the few jobs that offers health insurance,” she said. “We are scared and stressed, which only leads to more health problems. Health care is a human right; it is a matter of life and death, and we can’t afford to deny care anymore.”