Campaign Launched to Recognize Health Care as a Human Right
Mainers without health coverage and others who have been failed by Maine's health care system joined representatives from community, labor and health care organizations at press conferences in both Portland and Bangor today to help launch a new grassroots campaign that will work towards a health care system based on the recognition that health care is a human right.
"45,000 people in America die every year due to a lack of care. 44% of employers in Maine don’t offer health coverage. We spend 2.5 times as much as the developed world for our health care system, for worse outcomes, and health care expenses are the leading cause of bankruptcy in Maine and America," said Maine People's Alliance health care organizer Jennie Pirkl. "For all the improvements of the Affordable Care Act, we still have a broken system where too many people are being left behind. We can't continue like this, and we can't continue to let the for-profit insurance industry control so much of our government. We must recognize health care as a human right and organize to make things better."
Participants in the press conference shared their experiences with our broken health care system and helped launch the Maine Health Care is a Human Right campaign. The goal is to allow all Maine people have access to high quality care and to have more of a voice in how the health care system is run.
"For workers like us, who organize and bargain in a union, it is getting harder and harder to negotiate good health care. We have to give up wage increases in order to just hold on to good health care for our families. A majority of workers have seen their contributions and out of pocket costs increase in recent years. For many families, these costs have skyrocketed," said Pat Carleton, a papermaker at the Sappi mill in Skowhegan and Vice-President of the Maine AFL-CIO. " We can do better than this. We must address this crisis and we must recognize health care a human right in Maine."
For Marie Pineo, a working mother from Falmouth, persistent health problems combined with the lack of affordable health care have contributed to her financial instability. “I have a heart condition that does not allow me to work full-time hours, which means I cannot hope to get lucky by finding one of the few jobs that offers health insurance,” said Pineo. “We are scared and stressed, which only leads to more health problems. Health care is a human right; it is a matter of life and death, and we can't afford to deny care anymore.”
The press conferences are being held during National Nurses Week.
“As Registered Nurses, we see every day, the casualties that are the uninsured and underinsured in our society. As we celebrate Nurses Week, we need to keep in mind the thousands of Mainers, every day, who have to decide whether to pay for health care or feed and clothe their family or even pay for heating,” said Cokie Giles, a registered nurse. “It is completely unacceptable that in the 21st century USA is among the last in the developed economies to have a ‘an all-in, no one out’ health care system.”
The campaign, organized by a coalition including the Maine People’s Alliance, Maine AFL-CIO and the Maine State Nurses Association, will focus on grassroots outreach and work towards a healthcare system that follows the basic human rights principles of universality, equity, participation, accountability, and transparency.
More information on the campaign can be found here.