AUGUSTA – Multiple lawmakers are looking to change healthcare coverage in Maine, and one is suggesting the state switch to a single payer system.
Ten bills all pertaining to healthcare reform had public hearings Thursday.
Some Mainers gathered in support of reform at the Maine State House.
Those gathered who have insurance said it’s still not enough to cover their medical costs.
“I hear now that hospitals are recommending that people do GoFundMe campaigns to pay their debt. That’s not the way we should be supporting people to get healthcare coverage,” said Simmone Maline, a Winthrop resident.
The bills approach reform from different angles, one bill from Rep.Michael Sylvester, D – Portland, looks to establish a single-payer healthcare system in Maine.
One Republican lawmaker our news team spoke with said it’s too early in the process to take a side on that bill, but that he’s heard concerns from some residents on universal healthcare, some of those concerns regarding waiting periods and a lack of choice.
“They hear in many countries how you have to wait for what knee surgeries, whatever it may be,” said Rep. Gregg Swallow, R – Houlton.
Supporters of universal healthcare said it would save Mainers money overall, but did not yet have an exact number.
At a healthcare reform news conference, Senate President Troy Jackson became emotional while remembering a man he knew who while on the way to the hospital, suffered a medical emergency, and died.
“There shouldn’t be anyone else … who makes that long drive by himself,” said Sen. Jackson, D – Allagash. “What we found out afterwards was that Ryan had been to the hospital twice previously without health insurance.”
Supporters said about ten other states are considering universal healthcare.
But some lawmakers question whether Maine is ready for that level of change right now.
“I don’t think Maine’s ready for it yet. And we certainly don’t have enough studies. Don’t have enough information to even begin to make a decision like that,” said Rep. Swallow.
Some lawmakers, like Sen. Geoff Gratwick, hope that out of all these healthcare bills a compromise bill can be carried over to the next legislative session.
As it reads right now the universal healthcare bill would be rolled out in three phases, with the first phase being implemented in 2022.