Mainers for Health Care rally outside the State House prior to Gov. Paul LePage's State of the State address, Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2018, in Augusta, Maine. Credit: Robert F. Bukaty | AP

Paying a doctor’s bill shouldn’t break middle-class families.

But that’s exactly what’s happening right now all across Maine. Families are being forced to choose between seeing a doctor and putting food on the table.

Health insurance premiums are going up, putting insurance out of reach for many people, and even those who have good insurance today are worried that they won’t be able to afford it tomorrow.

I remember the day I found out that my father had cancer. I was in shock. I was afraid. But thanks to having access to treatment, my dad is able to get the care he needs. His cancer is under control, and he’s there for me and my kids, to teach them to hunt and fish just like he did with me, to root for the Red Sox and to be a part of their lives.

So many people I’ve talked to have stories about how Medicare has been a lifeline for them, their parents or their grandparents, how Medicaid has saved their child, and how having access to insurance has meant the difference between life and death, and, too often, going bankrupt.

We have to make health care affordable to everyone, which is why I support universal health care coverage through Medicare for all.

Last year, U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin voted to take health insurance away from more than 100,000 Mainers — and from millions of people all across the country — when he supported efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

Then he voted for a tax giveaway to wealthy donors and huge corporations that has blown a huge hole in the deficit while creating chaos in our health care system. Also included in the tax vote was a repeal of the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate, which is driving up costs and leaving millions more people without health insurance coverage.

According to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, the cost for an average health insurance plan is 34 percent higher this year than in 2017, when the rule was in effect. The same report predicts another 15 percent increase in 2019.

The left-leaning Center for American Progress estimated the increase in Maine for 2019 at 16 percent, or about $1,200.

Most working families in Maine aren’t seeing the benefits from the $1.5 trillion tax giveaway, but they are feeling the sting of higher health insurance costs — not to mention the burden of higher gas prices caused, in part, by the president’s erratic foreign policy.

Mainers are getting squeezed, but instead of fixing the problems, Congress is talking about changes that would make things even worse.

Hiding behind rhetoric of a balanced budget, Poliquin is putting Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid at risk by supporting a so-called balanced budget amendment. It’s nothing more than an excuse to cut programs on which people in Maine depend.

We’ve seen in the Katahdin region what can happen when people come together, hash out their differences, and get to work. Through a lot of listening, we were able to create Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument, which combines land conservation and permanent protections for traditional activities such as snowmobiling and hunting.

After just one year, the monument is making a real difference. There’s new investment and new businesses open on Penobscot Avenue, a new outdoor school being developed and young people moving home to take over the family business.

That’s what big ideas can do. They can help us turn things around.

The monument isn’t a silver bullet to the economic troubles of inland, rural Maine. But it can be part of a solution that also includes a renewed and modern forest products industry, tourism and investment in broadband so people can live in Maine and work anywhere in the world.

As we look to address the problems facing our country, and particularly the problems in our health care system, we have to be bold and willing to challenge the status quo to get things done.

Nothing good is happening in Congress, and that has to change. The focus is on lining the pockets of hedge fund managers and big corporations, when it should be on giving people the tools they need to be successful.

To me, that all starts with health care and making sure everyone — regardless of their income — can see a doctor when they need to and can afford their prescription medicine.

Lucas St. Clair is a Democratic candidate for Maine’s 2nd Congressional District. He lives in Hampden.

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