Medicare for all

I was one of the many Atul Gawande fans in the audience at the Quality Counts conference in Augusta on April 1. My reason for being at the conference was to advocate for improving the health of all Mainers via a system of improved Medicare for all. If we expanded Medicare to include everyone in Maine, we not only would save money, but we would improve the quality of health care in our state.

Dr. Gawande delivered the same message about Medicare, stating “Maine is in the top quarter of Medicare outcomes and in the lowest quarter of Medicare costs.” Indeed, over four years ago, noted health care economist Dr. William Hsiao delivered a similar message to the Maine Legislature, estimating that if Maine moved to a single-payer system of health care, such as Medicare for all, the state would save $1 billion during the first year alone.

Not only is universal health care financially feasible, but if the system is designed and implemented well, it actually will reduce Maine’s spiraling health care costs. LD 384, a Resolve, To Study the Design and Implementation of Options for a Universal Health Care Plan in the State, has been proposed by Sen. Geoff Gratwick, D-Bangor, and several co-sponsors. This bill recently passed the Insurance and Financial Services Committee by a 10-1 vote.

Contact your legislators and urge them to support this bill when it comes to the full House and Senate for a vote.

Julie Keller Pease, MD

Brunswick

Right to suppress public

Several bills, under the general title of “right to hunt” bills, are being considered in Augusta, but this title is misleading. No one is denying anyone’s right to hunt or fish, and you certainly can’t give Mainers the right to hunt because they already have it. What is threatened instead is the right to vote.

For more than a 100 years, Mainers have enjoyed the constitutional right to create and support a citizens’ initiative to remedy legislative inaction or obstruction. It is democracy in its most direct form; without it, the citizens of our state have no recourse if special interests prevent the voice of the people from being heard. The sponsors of these bills — Rep. Stephen Wood, R-Greene, for LD 754 and Rep. Michelle Dunphy, D-Old Town, for LD 1084 — would take away that vital alternative.

In particular, the bills would amend the state Constitution to exclude wildlife issues from the citizen initiative process, in effect declaring the animals of the state are a private preserve instead of a public resource. Such a restriction would not necessarily stop there. If wildlife, why not an amendment to exclude snowmobiles, all-terrain vehicles, bodies of water, public parks and so on. It’s the classic “slippery slope” with no end in sight to the topics that could be raised and the instances of voters’ rights that would be suppressed.

Fundamentally, these bills are fraught with consequence and the distinct possibility of legal challenges. They really have no place in a democratic society where all the issues should be decided by all the people.

Sherry Treworgy

Orland

Park is Millinocket’s business

Thanks to the Bangor City Council for usurping the sovereign right of the Millinocket council to handle their own business as far as what to do with the national park proposal. A park, if approved, would be about 10.8 miles from our community but about 88-plus miles away from Bangor.

We as a council would never ever consider involving ourselves in Bangor City Council’s countless problems. We would no more pass a resolution about Bangor’s potholes deep enough to hide a child in or the constant debate about the Waterfront Concerts series or Bangor’s 200 miles of failing water infrastructure or the economic disadvantage of having parking meters, which will add fewer dollars to spend from our cash-strapped area to use on goods and services in Bangor. Nor would we offer a resolve to ask for a moratorium on any more big-box store construction or offer solutions to Bangor’s bath salts, meth-heads and homeless people who clutter the city’s downtown area and raise its crime rate.

These are Bangor’s issues, which do not directly affect my community. And even if they did, I would respect the city council to handle their own issues without Millinocket’s intervention out of respect for the city’s elected officials and their constituency. It is too bad this is a one-way street.

Thank you, Bangor, for your lack of respect, common ethics and decorum when it comes to staying out of other peoples’ business.

Michael Madore

Millinocket

Pension double taxation

A bill stopping the unfair double taxation of some Maine retirees is being considered by the Legislature. It was filed by Rep. Beth Turner, R-Burlington. It is LD 1142, An Act Regarding the Taxation of Out-of-State Pensions.

If this becomes a law in 2015, it will stop all who made contributions to retirement benefit plans in other states from being taxed again. It will exempt from Maine income tax the portion of retirement benefits attributable to the taxpayer’s previous contribution

Kiplinger’s Personal Finance said in a recent analysis that Maine is not tax-friendly to retirees. Eliminating this double taxation, which other states do not have, will only help Maine change this unfriendly status.

LD 1142 has been assigned to the Taxation Committee. If the majority of committee members do not support it, it will not go out of committee to the rest of the House and Senate with a favorable report. As soon as possible, contact the following Taxation Committee members: Sens. Nathan Libby, Earl McCormick, and Paul Davis; Reps. Adam Goode, Bruce Bickford, Paul Chace, Mathew Moonen, Dianne Russell, H Stedmand Seavey, Thomas Skofield, Stephen Stanley, Gary Sukeforth, and Denise Tepler. Tell them to support this bill. Call and leave a message at the State House Message Center at 1-800-423-2900 or email through the website maine.gov/legis. If you would rather write a letter, send it to the Taxation Committee: State of Maine, Taxation Committee, 100 State House Station, Augusta, Maine 04333.

If the bill makes it out of committee, then everyone directly impacted or those who would like to be supportive of them should contact their Maine representatives and senators.

Karen E. Holmes

Cooper