A Maine legislative committee recently began considering eight innovative bills aiming at health care for all.
As a longtime Mainer originally from Connecticut and New York City, with family in Germany and clients around the world, I’ve given a lot of thought to how “people from away” take care of themselves. They do a better job than we do.
It’s about time for Maine – and America – finally to start giving serious thought to universal health care.
Some conservatives like to say, “Oh, we can’t have that. It’s too expensive, and nobody wants to pay high taxes like the Europeans do.” But in reality, the vast majority of Maine employees already have private health insurance premiums automatically deducted from their paychecks.
If you look at these deductions as taxes – which they are, for all practical purposes – we pay some of the highest rates in the world, according to People’s Policy Project (close to 40 percent of our income!) while getting some of the worst health outcomes of any developed country. By contrast, in Finland, for example, which has great health care but famously “high” taxes, the rate is only 23 percent.
This is ridiculous and unfair. All we’re doing is helping rich insurance and pharmaceutical companies get even richer – at the expense of every Mainer.
Fortunately, other states are already catching on. In New York state, for example, a recent Rand Corp. report on a single-payer proposal found that the plan would cut health care costs dramatically for lower-income people – while middle-class households would save about 10 percent of their income a year.
So what are we waiting for?
The time has come. Let’s iron out the kinks and – finally – launch true health care for all. It’s good for our fellow Mainers. It’s good for our economy. And it’s the right thing to do.