Weekly Radio Address: Senator Johnson says, “Governor should sign expansion for the tens of thousands of Mainers whose lives will be improved, will be healthier, and perhaps even be saved"
Good morning, this is State Senator Chris Johnson of Somerville. For the better part of a year there’s been considerable debate about whether or not Maine should join twenty-six other states in expanding health care to nearly 70,000 people in Maine.
Throughout this year-long debate, support for expansion has been strong. As a matter of fact, as of last week, a poll revealed that 61% of Mainers support the state expanding MaineCare health insurance to more Mainers, so that they too, can have access to life-saving health care.
Earlier this week, the Maine Senate voted in favor of advancing a Republican-sponsored measure to expand MaineCare but unfortunately, it did so without a veto-proof majority.
The 70,000 Mainers who would benefit from MaineCare expansion are our friends, neighbors, and family members. In my district, Lincoln County, I’ve heard from landscapers, carpenters, farmers, welders, and lobstermen–all of whom urged my support for expanding health care.
They are the people in our nursing homes taking care of our elderly; they are the people we see every week bagging our groceries; and, they are our veterans who have returned from Iraq or Afghanistan. They are working–and working hard–but simply aren’t earning more than $12 to 15 thousand dollars a year. They are the most financially destitute Mainers.
One person in her early sixties told me that expansion for her would mean that they would have preventative care for the first time in their adult life. She went on to say that her doctor has recommended tests and two procedures, but she has had to decline. She added: This worries me because we all know a lack of preventive care shortens people’s lifespans.
Expanding healthcare is a quality of life issue to ensure people have preventive care to stay healthy; instead of hoping they don’t get desperately ill.
We all agree that now is the time to start bending the curve downward on health care costs, and preventive care is an important step toward that goal. Even Maine’s hospitals agree. The Maine Hospital Association, the Maine Medical Association, and the Maine Primary Care Association have all endorsed expanding MaineCare health insurance. With this in mind, it makes expansion a win on quality of life and a win in the battle to curb overall healthcare costs.
It is also a win economically. Expanding healthcare would inject $250 million in federal dollars per year into Maine. And, by the way, that’s money that if Maine doesn’t use, some other state will. To date, because Maine hasn’t already expanded MaineCare like 26 other states, we have lost out on $74 million dollars in just 2014 alone. Said another way, for each day we have not expanded MaineCare, we lose one-million-per day.
Expanding healthcare would also create 4,500 jobs right here in Maine. As Senator Roger Katz said during the floor debate on the issue, if this were any other issue, we’d be cracking open the champagne bottle to celebrate such an economic win. He then added that even using the “e” word, expansion, is akin to fighting words lately.
In spite of the bipartisan compromise, expanding healthcare has become a partisan and at times, vitriolic issue for the GOP. But in my opinion, political games should never come before standing up for Maine people and doing right by them. Lawmakers from both sides of the aisle in all of the other New England states found a way to move beyond the rhetoric and worked together to move forward on doing what’s right for the people in their states.
I still hold out hope for our state…that next week when the Maine House takes up the issue that they too will pass the measure–and that when this compromise measure reaches Governor LePage’s desk, he will sign it. He will sign it, not for me, or any other lawmaker in the State House but he should sign it for 61% of Mainers who support expanding MaineCare health insurance. Most importantly, he should sign it for the tens of thousands of Mainers whose lives will be improved, will be healthier, and perhaps even be saved.
Thank you for listening. This is State Senator Chris Johnson of Somerville. Have a healthy and fantastic weekend.