MOUNT DESERT — The town boards in Bar Harbor and Tremont have joined those in several other Maine municipalities in adopting a resolution calling on the Legislature to design and implement a health plan that provides every Maine resident with comprehensive medical care.
The resolution was on the agenda for the Mount Desert Board of Selectmen’s meeting Tuesday night, but they neither discussed nor voted on it. Town Manager Durlin Lunt said Wednesday that he thinks the board is likely to take it up at a future meeting.
The Southwest Harbor selectmen recently decided not to consider the resolution after board member Carolyn Bell said they had no authority in the matter.
In Trenton, the selectmen have placed the resolution on the warrant for next month’s Town Meeting.
The effort to have municipalities adopt the resolution was initiated by Maine AllCare, an organization that promotes the establishment of a publicly funded health care system.
“This system must be efficient, financially sound, politically sustainable and must provide benefits fairly distributed to all,” AllCare says in its mission statement. “Maine AllCare advocates that health care, a basic necessity, be treated as a public good, since it is fundamental to our well-being as individuals and as a democratic nation.”
With the health care system that Maine AllCare envisions, “Every Maine resident contributes based on graduated taxes, which replace premiums. Bankruptcies due to medical expenses are eliminated.
“All medically necessary care, including preventive care, is covered.
“Providers, rather than insurance companies, have the freedom to make clinical decisions based on standard of care and individual needs.
“Health care is delivered as a public good just like roads, police, fire protection and education rather than as a source of profit.”
The resolution that the Trenton selectmen adopted unanimously states, “A system which is simple, straightforward and provides citizens with adequate health care is necessary; eliminating high administrative costs and waste would be beneficial to families and businesses; and improving the quality of life for residents (of the town) while providing the health care they need is desirable.”
The wording of the resolution that the Bar Harbor Town Council adopted unanimously Tuesday night is slightly different but has the same intent.
Dr. Mary Dudzik, a family practice physician, told the council that she strongly supports universal health care coverage.
“Every human in this country has a right to timely and excellent health care,” she said.
“There is a certain amount of coverage that people get up until age 18 and then there is coverage with Medicare after age 65, but from 18 to 65 is a really long time to go without guaranteed health care. I see people every day who have waited and waited to come in until their situation is quite dire.
“It’s not just people who are without health insurance at all, it’s also people who actually have insurance but with an exceedingly high deductible.”
Dudzik said America’s health care system is not focused on patient care.
“It is focused solely on insurance companies and their profits,” she said. “Insurance companies are entirely in control. It is not hospitals or their administrators or doctors or nurses…and it is certainly not patients who are in control of their health care.
“These insurance companies…employ lots of people to deny patients the care that they have actually already paid for,” Dudzik said. “And when an insurance company denies a medication that someone needs or a test like at CAT scan, it is not the insurance company that tells them. The person who has to walk into the room and tell them is me, and that feels really awful.”
She said the flaws in the current health care system have been greatly exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“If it wasn’t clear before the pandemic, it is certainly clear now that there is no equity when it comes to health care.”
She said that fixing what she sees as a broken health care system would not require a reinvention of the wheel.
“There are already models that are being used in countries where people enjoy better health care, healthier lives, longer lives and don’t have to worry about their health and their financial stability going bad.”
Emily Wright, a registered nurse at MDI Hospital, also spoke in support of universal health care coverage at Tuesday’s town council meeting.
“I, too, see far too many patients whose disease has advanced and whose quality of life is diminished…because they waited too long to receive medical attention due to the lack of health care [coverage] and the fear of too high deductibles,” she said.
A bill has been introduced in the Legislature (LD 1045) titled An Act to Support Universal Health Care. It would ensure that “all residents of this state are covered uniformly and unrelated to their employment status.”