Improving Health Care in Maine: What Can We Do?

In February and March 2023, HealthCare for All Maine coordinated a series of six talks with Maine legislators: “Improving Health Care in Maine: What Can We Do?” This summary describes each of the talks, with links to the print materials that were distributed during the sessions. You may also view and download the full 31-page document HERE.

  1. Complexity and Waste in our Healthcare System Physician and former state senator, Dr. Geoff Gratwick outlines the problems with our current healthcare system. The US healthcare system is focused on profit. It is expensive, wasteful, and confusing for everyone. Maine spends 23-25% of its total state economic product on health care, the US 18% and Canada and the E.U. 10-12%. Yet, the U.S. ranks somewhere between 21st and 35th in terms of population health. “The obstacles to change are political, not economic or medical,” says Dr. Gratwick.
  2. Business impacts: a better model for healthcare in Maine – Emergency physician Dr. Henk Goorhuis discusses how our healthcare system affects Maine businesses. He proposes a state coverage plan, “broadly imagined by coverage categories”, citing examples of initiatives in Maine and in other states. A second handout summarizes ten years of legislative initiatives in Maine.
  3. Rural Health Care in Maine: Essential and At Risk – Dr. Ted Sussman, Houlton internist, outlines the health care access problems facing rural Maine residents. Twenty-eight percent of rural Maine hospitals are at risk of closing, including four at immediate risk.  Fifteen of sixteen Maine counties have health professional shortages in primary care, mental health, and dental health. “Having adequate health insurance is of little value if there is no Emergency Department, Laboratory facility or treatment capability available in a resident’s community”, says Dr. Sussman. More rural healthcare information can be found HERE.
  4. Rural Health Inequities in Maine: Place Matters – Dr. Caryl Heaton, family physician from Blue Hill, focuses on other critical rural health issues. She notes that rural Maine people have higher rates of poverty, unemployment and economic distress, as well as lower rates of health insurance coverage and poorer population health. Dr. Heaton outlines strategies to attract healthcare providers to rural Maine areas. She also proposes a unified state healthcare program that includes global budgets for hospitals. More information from Dr. Heaton’s talk can be found HERE.
  5. Health Care: What Do People Need? – Dr. Bill Clark, Brunswick internist, discusses the stress and confusion about medical billing, including what is covered or not covered by insurance, the devastating problems of high deductibles and denial of claims for care that is delivered. He states that what we really need is access to healthcare when we need it, the freedom to choose our healthcare providers, and the ability to make healthcare decisions with those providers without interference from insurance companies.
  6. Health Care: The Way Forward – Les Fossel, small businessman and former GOP state legislator, proposes twelve possible steps to move Maine along the path to health care for everyone in Maine. He references a MECEP study from 2019 which showed that total yearly health care spending could decrease by $1.5 billion under a state-level universal plan in Maine.

Published by HealthCare for All Maine

HealthCare for All Maine is the 501c4 political and advocacy arm of Maine AllCare

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