The Maine Medical Association (MMA) last week became the fifth state medical association in the country to endorse a policy statement calling for universal taxpayer-funded health insurance coverage.
The association’s board approved the statement back in June, and members who attended the association’s annual Portland gathering voted to officially endorse it this past weekend.
“The MMA believes that our current U.S. health care system produces some of the world’s most eminent clinicians and health care facilities which, together, provide some of the most advanced medical care in the world,” the statement reads in part. “But, despite sustained efforts by physicians and other health care workers, our system fails both patients and physicians in multiple ways.”
“Action should be taken immediately to create a system that provides access to health care for all (as a public good), contains costs, eliminates health disparities, and ensures a robust public health system,” the statement says.
“The MMA recognizes the need for comprehensive and transformative change to our health care system,” it continues. “A new system must be a full reconfiguration of health care delivery and financing, designed by evaluating the failures and successes of our present models and the systems of other countries.”
“We believe any solution must ensure universal access to efficient, evidence-based, timely care that is affordable to the American people,” it says. “As such, we are calling for federal health care reform that provides universal coverage through either an adequately funded single payer system or a combination of private and public financing where the federal government has, at minimum, regulatory powers over health care delivery to protect consumers and providers from private profit-driven motives.
“Such federal reform is the most cost-effective way to provide universal coverage, establish appropriate priorities, and achieve simplicity,” the statement argues. “The time for the people of Maine and the United States to have guaranteed, affordable care is long overdue.”
At the end of the statement, the MMA also includes a more specific, tangible policy recommendation for lawmakers in Maine specifically:
“Given the current partisan divide at the federal level, however, such necessary federal reform seems unlikely at this time. Maine cannot afford to delay regular access to ongoing health care for all of its people. The Maine Medical Association, therefore, calls upon the Legislature and Governor of Maine to achieve and maintain universal access to regular health care services through the provision of health coverage to all Maine people by the end of 2027, through either an expansion of existing coverage options, or another creative and sustainable solution. This is an attainable goal fully aligned with the
mission of the MMA.”
“I don’t think it’s credible for physicians to stand on the sidelines of this issue of universal access to care … while millions of patients and thousands in Maine don’t have ongoing primary care, access to specialist care, access to hospital care treatment for severe illness without taking on the risk of bankruptcy or not being — simply not being able to afford it,” Dr. Erik Steele, immediate past president of the association, said Monday, according to the Bangor Daily News.
According to reporting from the Bangor Daily News, the American Medical Association has not a position or statement similar to that of the MMA or the other four state associations. Its House of Delegates — made up of representatives of all 50 states’ medical associations — was 30 votes shy of endorsing a “medicare for all” policy recommendation in 2020.
Steele has publicly acknowledged that support for universal health insurance is not widespread among state medical associations nationwide.
“While we are among a small number of medical associations to do this, we think our actions represent a growing consensus of physicians, both in Maine and nationally, that it’s time for every American to have health care insurance and to figure out how to do that in a way that’s affordable and equitable,” Steele said.
The MMA did not say how their envisioned universal health insurance plan would be paid for.
Click here to read the full statement from the Maine Medical Assocation.