Many of the 70 audience members present raised questions about the implementation of health care for all. ELLSWORTH AMERICAN PHOTO BY STEPHEN FAY

Universal health care forum in Blue Hill draws a full house Sunday at the library

BLUE HILL — Dozens of advocates of publicly funded, universal health care gathered at the library Sunday afternoon for a status report from a pair of legislators.

State Sen. Geoff Gratwick (D-Bangor), a retired physician, provided an inventory of bills — including his own — intended to make health care coverage more affordable.

Bills filed include one that would permit residents to buy into Mainecare and be covered by that program. Another would allow buying into the Maine state employees coverage program. A third would confer middleman status on the state so that Maine could buy prescription medications from Canada, where they are cheaper, and pass the savings along.

Gratwick’s bill, LD 52, would remake the entire health care system in Maine, creating a nonprofit health care trust committed to prevention, recruitment and appropriate compensation for providers and reduction of prescription costs.

State Sen. Geoff Gratwick of Bangor, Blue Hill State Rep. Sarah Pebworth (seated) and Phil Bailey, executive director of Maine AllCare, respond to questions from the floor.

Pebworth encouraged those present to write in support of the bills they back or — better yet — go to Augusta for the hearings and provide testimony. Both she and Gratwick invited communication from constituents.

Phil Bailey, executive director of Maine AllCare, served as moderator Sunday. He opened the session saying health care reform is “an issue whose time has come.”

Gratwick recalled times when he was still in practice as a rheumatologist. He said patients would tell him they could not afford the medications he had prescribed. He was motivated to find ways to extend coverage and cut costs.

Gratwick’s position, which appeared to be shared by most, if not all, of those present, is that the profit motive must be removed from health care delivery.

He said a “Medicare for all” model is under consideration in Congress but that the wheels turn slowly in Washington. States can act more swiftly, he said.

“This is not the partisan issue it’s made out to be,” Gratwick said.

State Sen. Louie Luchini (D-Ellsworth) and State Rep. Genevieve McDonald were scheduled to participate in Sunday’s forum but McDonald was unwell and Luchini is in France.

Stephen Fay

Stephen Fay

Managing Editor at The Ellsworth American
Stephen Fay, managing editor of The Ellsworth American since 1996, is a third-generation Californian. Starting out as a news reporter in 1974, he has been an editor since 1976, working in Massachusetts, Connecticut and Vermont before settling in Ellsworth with his wife and two daughters. [email protected]
Stephen Fay

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