Maine residents tired of health care that’s not there and angry at waste and profiteering are finding cause for hope. Evidence for that is seen in the growing numbers engaged in organizing a rally for health care for all, set for May 30 for the state house lawn in Augusta.

A new organization, Maine Healthcare Reform, has materialized to push for passage of legislation by the U.S. Congress for single-payer, universal health care, specifically H.R. 676, Medicare for All. That bill and legislation introduced last month in the U.S. Senate by Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders gets the private health insurance companies out of health care.

Sanders’ proposed legislation differs from H.R. 676 in two ways. The states would take on responsibility for implementing a national health plan, and Sanders’ proposal would provide added support for community health centers and the National Health Service Corps.

Last week, single payer advocates in Maine took heart from the state legislature passing a resolution calling upon Maine senators and representatives, the U.S. Congress and President Obama to create “legislation that establishes a national, universal, single-payer non-profit health care plan. The Senate vote was 20-15, that in the House, 91-52.

Language in the resolution left little to the imagination. It pointed out failure of managed care, health maintenance organizations and private for-profit health reforms to contain costs over a period of 35 years. The resolution called for “legislation that is substantially similar to the United States National Health Insurance Act, H.R. 676.”

Last month the New Hampshire House of Representatives passed by a 192-150 margin its own resolution in favor of a single payer national health care system.

State Representative Ed Mazurek (D-Rockland) had introduced the resolution at the behest of local citizens, chief among them Jerry Call. Call, forced to endure astronomical medical costs while uninsured, almost singlehandedly organized a statewide petition campaign. At polling places and elsewhere, Maine people brought together by Call secured 7,000 signatures urging the state legislature to pass a single payer resolution.

People obtaining the signatures went on to form Maine Healthcare Reform, the group engaged now in putting on the May 30 rally. The Maine activists are holding local gatherings to educate neighbors and mobilize support for the rally. Similar demonstrations will be taking place in at least 10 states on or about May 30.

Physicians are getting into the act. Late last year the Maine Medical Association polled members on health care reform. They were asked, “When considering the topic of health care reform, would you prefer to make improvements to the current public/private system or a single payer system as a ‘Medicare for all’ approach?” Of 605 respondents ― 34 percent of the total membership ― 52.3 percent favored single payer, while 47.7 percent opted for tinkering with the present private/public mixed system.

They were also asked: “What three issues were of greatest concern for the future of medicine and patient care?” The reply, “expanding access to care for uninsured,” came out on top, cited by 60 percent. When they were asked, “What issues should the Association focus on in 2009?” 79 percent of them put “reform the health care system in Maine and nationally” on top.

Physician support for real change in the U.S. health care system is not unique to Maine. A study published last year in the Annals of Internal Medicine, a leading medical journal, reported on a survey of 2,193 U.S. physicians, of whom 59 percent “support government legislation to establish national health insurance” ― a 10 percent approval hike over a similar survey in 2002.

Similarly, 81 percent of 514 New Hampshire physicians surveyed in late 2007 believe that health care should be “available to all citizens as part of the social contract, a right similar to basic education, police and fire protection.”

Some of the interest in single payer health care is due to a campaign carried out last year by the Maine AFL-CIO. Maine’s four central labor councils, each on record as supporting H.R. 676, went statewide to educate and advocate regarding the need for health care change.

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