Written by Timothy Fisher

I spent much of Election Day at the polls helping collect signatures to support a single-payer health care initiative. Given the great turnout for this year’s election, this was an excellent way to get a sense of who really lives in one’s town. In this increasingly polarized world, it’s probably the one event where almost everybody shows up. Left and right, young and old, working, retired, students and families all in one place and all strolling by my little table. Many did that exactly, strolling right on by without any interest in signing anything for anybody. But of those who chose to stop, the interest in this issue was profound.

We all know that the skyrocketing cost of health care is a problem all over the country. But until you spend a day talking with folks from all walks of life about their own experiences, it’s hard for it to really sink in. It truly seemed that everybody is fed up with the health care system we have now. Of course there were those who believe that easy access to health care ought to be the right of every American, rather than the privilege it is increasingly becoming today. They all signed this petition. But they were hardly alone. There were people who were just plain sick of paying gobs of money for a high-deductible plan and then still paying all of their medical bills anyway. There were people paying more for these “catastrophic coverage” plans than the mortgage on their home. Many signed who were only holding onto a job for fear of losing the insurance. This was especially scary for one woman who wished to retire but needed her company’s plan to support her husband’s medical needs. There was an Iraq war veteran who felt well cared for by the military, but was frustrated to watch his young adult daughter unable to afford her own coverage.

More than a few signed who didn’t like the idea of tax-supported health care, but thought that “we just have to do something!” Everybody sees the need for change. And everyone has some horror story about their own family or friends who battled the insurance company to fulfill their promises or ER visits that break their budgets or having to choose between food, fuel or medicine. People are so desperate for help.

Pretty much everyone under age 50 signed my paper, as did anyone with a kid attached to their leg. Maine is a place where many people work for themselves and they especially are being left behind by today’s system. Carpenters, plumbers, artists, store owners, farmers and pretty much every fisherman signed this paper. None of these people wants more taxes, but more importantly, I think all these people want to feel they’re getting something back from paying those taxes. In the last few years we’ve watched in dismay as our leaders dish out billions upon billions to fund a war far away from home, and then to bail out the rich on Wall Street. Now there’s talk of bailing out the auto industry because they had a serious lack of foresight. It’s not too big a stretch to imagine us soon bailing out the health insurance companies. As premium costs rise, more people and businesses will drop their plans, thereby making the costs rise yet again. The whole industry is on a path to failure. We need to change it now before that happens. We need to change it in a way that supports the people rather than the corporate world. As our new president, Barack Obama will have many of the pieces in place to make real change in our health care system and he appears to have the desire to do so. But his current ideas are marginal at best. He needs to be pressed right now on what the people want this system to be. If it’s not working out for you, write or call your representatives and tell them what you want the American health care system to be.

Anyone interested in more information can check out: www.midcoasthealthcarereform.org.

Thank you to those who helped collect signatures last week, and also to everyone who signed this petition and even to those who did not sign but took the time to stop and discuss this crisis.

Timothy Fisher is a resident of Prospect Harbor.