For the fifth year in a row, I’ve had the honor of participating in the Saco Museum’s Festival of Trees. The month-long event has quickly become one of my favorite Christmas traditions. People from all over our communities come together to decorate trees and other decorations to benefit the museum and the Dyer Library. The result is a beautiful holiday display that brings out the child in all of us.
The Festival of Trees makes the Christmas spirit unavoidable, even for the Grinches among us. As I decorated my tree, in honor of the brave men and women of the Saco Fire Department, I thought about what that Christmas spirit means to me.
To me, Christmas is about the generous spirit that ought to guide us all year. The holiday brings out charity and kindness, not just toward our loved ones but to all our fellow man. That’s why charitable giving spikes during the holiday season.
I believe the spirit of Christmas should animate our behavior all year — not just in our individual acts but in our public policies as well. A decent society is one that displays the same kindness and goodwill to its citizens that we show toward one another during the Christmas season.
A decent society doesn’t allow its citizens to fall through the cracks. It doesn’t allow its people to postpone medical care because they’re worried about how they’ll afford it, even as pharmaceutical and insurance companies amass record profits. It doesn’t allow kids to suffer because mom and dad are too sick to take care of them. It doesn’t force near-retirees to agonize over their checking ledgers every month, trying to stretch a paycheck enough to cover the cost of medicine as well as the cost of groceries and heating fuel.
Letting such a system persist flies in the face of all the values we extoll this time of year. Not even Ebeneezer Scrooge would think this was OK.
On Election Day, the people of Maine took an important step to end the injustice of health inequality when we voted to enact a new law to provide health insurance coverage to roughly 80,000 Mainers by expanding Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act.
The ACA’s success at expanding health care is undeniable. Since the law was implemented, the percentage of uninsured Americans has dropped by half. In 2017, more than 20 million Americans received health insurance through the ACA. Subsidies have helped those Americans, including tens of thousands of Mainers, afford health insurance plans sold on the marketplace.
Studies show that because of the ACA, fewer people than ever before are skipping urgent medical care simply because of cost.
Medicaid Expansion will not bring universal coverage to Maine, but it will get us much, much closer. And while Gov. Paul LePage – who has vetoed Medicaid Expansion time and again during his terms in office – continues to oppose health care expansion, I will do everything in my power to ensure the law is implemented in a timely, responsible manner.
When it is, we’ll have put our holiday spirit into practice, extending life-saving health care to 80,000 Mainers. That will be the greatest Christmas gift of all.
Beyond the Headlines
Weekly Column featured in The Biddeford-Saco-OOB Courier Newspaper by Rep. Justin Chenette of Saco