WERU Special 10/17/19: “Universal Health Care: is it possible in Maine?”

Producer/Host: Amy Browne
Audio recorded by: Matt Murphy

A conversation about our health care system with Dr. Phil Caper of Maine AllCare advocating for universal health care, and Matt Gagnon of The Maine Heritage Policy Center promoting free market alternatives. The discussion, taped Monday, October 14 in a small gathering above Old Professor’s Bookshop in Belfast, provides background for listeners who might have a heightened interest based on the upcoming 2020 political season.

Moderator for the talk, Jim Campbell (host of “Notes from the Electronic Cottage” on WERU-FM), began by asking the speakers to define what they meant by universal health care. While both agreed in theory to the idea of covering as many people as possible, Mr. Gagnon believed calling it a human right oversimplified the question. “Health care is a fixed resource. Every question of care comes down to: how can you serve the most people?”

Dr. Caper countered with his belief that every single person should be covered, that the US is the only wealthy country in the world without universal health care. “Other countries spend half of what we do on health care, and even with all that we spend, our life expectancy keeps dropping. Are they smarter? What are the barriers to reform?” he asked, citing money in politics as a major problem.

The two speakers saw different scenarios of what would result from the State of Maine adopting universal health care, with Mr. Gagnon fearing that people would leave the state in droves because of higher taxes. He cited Vermont as a state that worked hard to create a system for universal health care, characterizing their downfall due to businesses threatening to move away because of higher government costs, necessitating higher taxes.

Dr. Caper said Maine would attract new people by making health care premiums and co-pays disappear. Detaching employment from health care would encourage young entrepreneurs, freeing up economic growth as people become free to leave unsatisfying jobs. “We don’t need better insurance,” he said. “We need something better than insurance. Making money should not be the primary goal to health care.”

Both speakers agreed that the current system is a nightmare and that something needs to be done to clear away the inefficiencies, with Mr. Gagnon certain that nothing would happen in the short run and Dr. Caper arguing for phasing in a plan over a predetermined period of time.

For more information on Maine AllCare, contact Abbie Ryder, aryder@maineallcare.org. To reach The Maine Heritage Policy Center, contact Nick Murray, nmurry@mainepolicy.org.

NOTE: The presentation lasted more than an hour. The unedited, full version is also available below. At about 4 minutes into the recording there is a brief gap due to a technical issue.