One of MPA’s most important areas of focus over the past year has been working to convince just a few more Republican legislators to vote in favor of accepting the federal funds made available through the Affordable Care Act to provide MaineCare to 70,000 Maine people.
Last summer, after reflecting upon MPA’s work in the previous session, members decided to change the way MPA was approaching the campaign. It was decided to bring the stories of real people to the forefront and change the conversation from one about money and jobs to one about human rights and the impact on people.
The most important work of a grassroots organization is guiding people who are being directly affected by politics to share their stories and become involved in fighting for their own future. There ispower in storytelling. Personal stories bring connection, inspiration, motivation and truth.
Last fall, tens of thousands of Maine people received letters telling them that due to cuts made by the previous legislature, they were going to be losing their MaineCare coverage on December 31st. Many of these Mainers began calling MPA and asking what was going to happen. Organizers met many people who had not previously been involved in politics who suddenly were made painfully aware of how politics and policy can impact their lives.
On January 8th, the first day of the 2014 legislative session, MPA brought 400 people to the State House, making it the largest lobby day in the organization’s history. This included 25 people who had lost their MaineCare or who hadn’t had insurance in a long time but who could finally be covered if the bill passed. Most of them had never been to the State House before and had never done any public speaking, but they stood and spoke their truths, even if their voices (and hands) shook. They became leaders. From that point on, MPA leaders were at the State House every single week. They sang, protested, witnessed and told their stories over and over again.
Unfortunately, the expansion bills once again came up just a couple of votes shy of the two-thirds majority necessary to overrule Governor LePage’s veto. It wasn’t for lack of trying. In addition to telling personal stories, MPA members shared facts about the economic benefits and the numbers of jobs that could be created. However, no amount of facts or heart could knock down the wall of ideology that conservatives had erected.
The campaign is not over. There is still an opportunity to accept the federal funding and provide access to life-saving care to Mainers without health insurance, and the next step in the campaign is to change the direction in Augusta. Mainers need a Governor who puts people and facts above ideology and a legislature that is willing to do what is right and who will re-establish Maine as a national leader in health care coverage.
The Maine People’s Alliance is proud to endorse Rep. Mike Michaud for governor, who has pledged to accept the federal funds for health care coverage as his first act in the Blaine House. MPA members will be working hard this summer and fall to make sure he has that opportunity, and that he has a progressive legislature that will start there and continue working until every Mainer has access to health care as a basic human right