On April 2, I attended a public hearing of the Health and Human Services Committee on a bill to accept federal funds to expand MaineCare under the terms of the Affordable Care Act (L.D. 1066).

Maine has an unprecedented opportunity to extend health care coverage to working adults whose incomes place them close to the poverty line.

Accepting federal funds will cover 69,500 Mainers who currently can’t afford health insurance. With the proposed MaineCare expansion, our neighbors living at or near the poverty line will be able to access the care they need when they need it and better manage their health. This will reduce the need for costly care and emergency room visits; considerably lower hospital charity care; and result in savings for the privately insured. Research shows the cost of caring for the uninsured raises premiums for the average insured family by $1,000 per year.

Many people with multiple sclerosis and other chronic conditions who lack insurance are forced to delay routine care or drop medications, with adverse consequences to their long-term health. Access to regular care can mean being able to continue in the workforce, continue on recommended medications and enjoy quality of life.

Increasing health care coverage saves lives, strengthens communities and helps the system function better for all of us. Maine has long made health care for all Mainers a priority. I hope others will join me and urge their legislators to vote “yes” on L.D. 1066 and accept federal funds budgeted for Maine.

Robin Steinwand, volunteer

National MS Society

Saint Albans