Health coverage must be a priority

Dear Editor:

COVID-19 is having its way with coastal Maine. Nearly 60 percent of leisure and hospitality jobs statewide are gone. For small towns that depend on tourism, the lockdowns and tight restrictions on out-of-state visitors have hollowed out our economies and left countless families wondering how they’ll survive without a paycheck.

Unfortunately, the job losses come packaged with another devastating impact — loss of employer-provided health coverage. Many workers who suffered layoffs no longer enjoy the health plan they had earlier this year. What’s more, some struggling small businesses may be forced to cut the health plan available to workers who remain.

The long-term impacts across Downeast Maine concern me and many other lifelong residents of coastal Washington and Hancock counties. I know that without health coverage, many families will avoid basic medical care because they cannot afford a doctor’s appointment, let alone a trip to the hospital or an unfavorable diagnosis.

What will that mean for people who suspect they’ve contracted COVID-19? Will some delay care too long and put their lives in danger?

What will happen to the health of our workforce? Will Maine’s talent gap become a chasm by the time the coronavirus tide has turned and businesses are aggressively rehiring?

And what about costs? Will more heart attacks, late-stage cancers and other problems cause the United States to spend more on health care down the road?

Let’s get ahead of it and help families keep the health coverage they’ve got or afford new coverage to replace it. This should be the primary mission for the U.S. Senate as it crafts another round of COVID-19 stimulus — and Sen. Susan Collins is in an excellent position to demand action. She’s always been strong on health care, and the fight to secure health coverage support is another opportunity to show voters why she’s an indispensable force in Washington, D.C.

Will Tuell

East Machias

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