As a retired family doctor and former state representative, I have fought for MaineCare expansion for almost six years, beginning in the 126th Legislature when I sponsored the first expansion bill in Maine, L.D. 1066, “An Act to Increase Access to Health Coverage and Qualify Maine for Federal Funding.” I watched in dismay as five versions of MaineCare expansion bills passed with bipartisan support in the Legislature, only to be vetoed by the governor.

Each Medicaid expansion bill attempted to address the concerns of those reluctant to accept the federal funds to increase access to health coverage. But those concerns were never real — they were simply excuses to promote an ideology that health care is not a human right, and that some are undeserving of care.

I celebrated as the people took MaineCare expansion into their own hands and made Maine the first state in the nation to pass expansion by referendum. This referendum was absolutely necessary because the LePage administration and a handful of holdout legislators continued to stand in the way of our care. And even now, I am watching the ballots of Maine voters be ignored as the LePage administration fails to execute the law.

The Legislature sent a bill to fund MaineCare expansion to the governor’s desk, but Gov. Paul LePage vetoed it. Now lawmakers must override the veto and make it clear that they won’t stand for anything less than the faithful execution of the expansion law. There can now be no more excuses to continue delaying health care coverage to tens of thousands of Mainers.

Mainers need to know that they have the right to apply for MaineCare beginning immediately. Nonprofit organizations such as Maine Equal Justice Partners are developing tools to help eligible Mainers sign up for care. There is no need to wait for more court decisions or laws to pass in order to apply. Once an application is submitted, those eligible for MaineCare under the law will have coverage. Whether the governor continues to drag his feet or not, coverage will be retroactive to the date of application for those determined to be eligible. As the Superior Court ruled: The law is the law, not a suggestion.

This is great news for families earning low wages, who may now access needed care; it is great news for hospitals (especially rural hospitals), which have to provide care no matter a person’s ability to pay; it is great news for Maine’s economy, as expansion will bring more than $500 million of our federal dollars back into our local economies; it is good news for Mainers suffering from substance use disorders, who can finally access affordable treatment; and it is great news for those looking for good-paying jobs with benefits, as expansion is expected to create more than 6,000 jobs, more job growth than has been realized from any law in many years.

I didn’t wait to advocate for MaineCare expansion or its implementation until the people insisted – I have been listening to my patients and my constituents and working for them all along. Join me in the fight to help all Mainers eligible under the law obtain the coverage they need and deserve. Spread the word about applying for MaineCare; nearly 70,000 Mainers became eligible July 2. Go to the Maine Equal Justice Partners website (www.mejp.org) to access tools, such as an eligibility screening tool or their hotline, meant to help people navigate the system.

Maine voters approved MaineCare expansion and spoke clearly when we voted to ensure that our neighbors will have access to health care. Now is the time to ensure your family, neighbors and community know how to access the health care we’ve been fighting for, and that we finally won, together.

Linda Sanborn of Gorham is a retired family doctor, a former state representative and a Democratic candidate for Maine Senate in District 30.

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