We’re Hiring! Join the team as our Health Care is a Human Right Community Organizer

Health Care is a Human Right Community Organizer 

Job Description

This is a full time, exempt position. Benefits include ample paid sick time & vacation and health insurance. This is a one-year position starting on or about November 18, 2019 and ending on or about November 13, 2020. 

This position is housed within the Southern Maine Workers’ Center’s (SMWC) Health Care is a Human Right Committee.We believe that a health care system treated as a public good and based on human rights principles is a fundamental step toward economic and racial justice. We work on short term health care reform campaigns as part of our long-term campaign to transform the health care system to be universal and publicly financed. 

SMWC is a member-led, basebuilding organization. Outreach, member recruitment, grassroots mobilizations, leadership development, and political education are key to our theory of change. This position will work across all of SMWC’s program areas to develop and sharpen effective and transformational basebuilding practices. 

TO APPLY: Send a resume and cover letter to Applications are due on October 18, 2019. 


This position will coordinate the member-driven Health Care is a Human Right Committee to carry out campaigns for health care reform, arts and education projects, and coalition building with a focus on basebuilding and developing member leadership. Other responsibilities include creating campaign strategy and field plans, building and participating in local and national coalitions, and committee related communications. This position will also coordinate and supervise member and volunteer participation in HCHR programs. 

In addition to HCHR responsibilities, the position with work with staff and members to coordinate across all of SMWC’s committees and programs and support organization-wide events, policies, and education. 

Coordination & Supervision

  • Coordinate and support the part-time HCHR Organizer’s outreach & basebuilding work
  • Coordinate and supervise member-leaders’ programmatic work
  • Coordinate volunteers for events and data management

Outreach & Membership Development

  • Create field and outreach strategies for campaigns and programs
  • Recruit and activate members through outreach, follow up, and one-on-ones
  • Develop leadership development strategies for HCHR committee & SMWC as a whole


Coalition Building

  • Identify and build relationships with new and existing community partners
  • Represent SMWC in related local and national coalition meetings
  • Coordinate coalition and community partner meetings  


HCHR Leadership Committee (HCHR-LC)

  • Coordinate the HCHR-LC or other HCHR committees, including member attendance and participation, and ensuring that members are accountable for work between meetings. 
  • Create agendas for meetings or work with members to create agendas
  • Facilitate decision making and planning by the committee


Health Care Policy

  • Be or become knowledgeable about state and local health care policy, including Medicare for All, single payer, medicaid, and MaineCare, and other relevant policy. 
  • Support and develop policy and legislative advocacy strategies



This job has fluctuating hours with a combination of self-directed and committee-directed scheduling. Must be able to work some nights and weekends (for meetings and events) in addition to weekdays. Position is supervised by the Executive Director, and works in coordination with the HCHR-LC Leadership Committee members. 


  • At minimum 3-5 years experience with transformative labor and/or community organizing, including one-on-one organizing conversations, facilitation, leadership development, event coordination, campaign development; and a willingness to talk to strangers
  • Self-directed; able to work independently
  • Comfortable working collectively (including group decision-making, collaborative writing, and meeting/event co-facilitation)
  • Aligned with the SMWC’s political orientation, community agreements, and goals as outlined in the SMWC Membership Agreements and Values Statement
  • Experience with policy and legislative advocacy
  • Demonstrated writing skills
  • Ability to speak multiple languages is ideal
  • Women, People of Color, LBGTQ people, poor and working class people are encouraged to apply. 

Rep. Larry Lockman’s Scapegoating and Fearmongering are Intended to Keep Maine too Paralyzed to Envision a Better Future

By Peggy Marchand, Health Care is a Human Right Committee Member

The Southern Maine Workers’ Center endorsed  LD 1317, “An Act To Restore Services To Help Certain Noncitizens Meet Their Basic Needs”, as part of our Health Care is Human Right campaign. We believe all people should get the health care they need, and are organizing for universal health care in Maine and support Medicare for All nationally. We also believe that racism and xenophobia, are used by people in power to keep us from realizing our human rights. This essay a rebuttal to a hateful op-ed written by Rep. Larry Lockman in the Ellsworth American (we won’t drive more traffic to the post by linking it here),  which lays out why scapegoating and racism are keeping our state from finding solutions to the issues that impact all of us. 

Our friends at Maine Equal Justice have set a goal to get 500 messages to legislators to support two critical health care priorities for low-income Mainers!

In his recent article printed in the Ellsworth American, (Non-Citizen Welfare Shortchanges Maine Seniors, May 10, 2019) Rep. Lawrence Lockman states his dismay at “the avalanche of hideous legislation,” including LD 1317, the bill proposed by Representative Drew Gattine that that seeks restore eligibility for MaineCare and other safety net programs to immigrants. Like his old mentor and ally, former Governor Paul LePage, Lockman furiously casts blame and blatantly ignores facts, needs, and root causes.

Current economic issues in the state of Maine are far too serious and complex to use scapegoating to defend xenophobic points of view. Beyond the fact that we have a human obligation to welcome people fleeing political and economic hardship, the presence and contributions of the immigrants and refugees who move here may save Maine from a work force disaster.

Our state is in economic trouble and neither immigrants nor those who wish to find ways to support them are the causes of Maine’s work force crisis. Moreover, it is time to acknowledge that welcoming immigrants could be a huge help in Maine’s successfully weathering our labor crisis, one which analysts say is may be temporary right now, but is in danger of becoming permanent, unless we act to get more people into the work force. Economist Charles Colgan says, “Anything we’re doing now to keep immigrants out and anything we’re not doing to attract people to Maine from the rest of the US and the rest of the world, is going to be deadly for the next decade.” Why? Here are some facts:

Maine has the oldest median age, 44.5 years and the largest number of baby boomers of any state, who now are retiring in record numbers. Our work force is shrinking, and may be down 20,000 workers by 2020.  In 2017, we experienced 2,379 more deaths than births. The Maine Center for Disease Control and Preventions reports that more deaths will not only reduce the number of workers we have contributing their labor, but also warns of the serious impact fewer workers will have on public revenues. Our youth still flee the state for opportunities and lifestyle experiences they perceive are not offered in Maine; it’s hard to keep them here, let alone count on them to fill work force gaps.  And the shortfall is not theoretical, it has begun; the signs “We’re hiring! Help Wanted!” are everywhere. This is Maine’s reality. It will take all of us working together to keep Maine a welcoming place with a viable future. About this information, surely, Rep. Lockman must be aware.

However, in his article, Rep. Lockman chooses to call his House colleague Rep. Gattine “callous and uncaring about the plight of low-income Mainers” and drums up trouble and stirs up prejudices because Gattine is working to pass LD 1317, “An Act to Restore Services to Help Certain Noncitizens Meet their Basic Needs.” Rather than true addressing the human and economic reasons to restore basic public programs to all Maine residents, Lockman sidesteps by suggesting that monies spent on this bill would somehow result in more nursing home closings and that “residents will face the emotional trauma of being relocated further away from loved ones, all because a majority of legislators prioritize foreigners over Mainers.”

Indeed, nursing homes have been closing in Maine, and all across the country, particularly in rural areas.  But the closings are NOT caused by diverting funds from these facilities to immigrants. There are a number of other factors, decidedly unrelated to funding support for immigrants, that make these businesses decide, or feel forced, to close. Here are some: First, a public shift in thinking about nursing homes has led to more unoccupied rooms, which may sound surprising, considering our rapidly aging population. Rather than going to a nursing home, more folks are aware of community options and are using other resources, including in-home care, or assisted living options, or deciding to rely on family members to step up as care-takers. Empty rooms mean fewer funds coming in to support the expenses of these businesses.

Traditionally, nursing homes have survived on very slim profit margins and small financial changes can have large impacts. For many years, they faced low reimbursements from Medicaid, as Lockman pointed out. In fact, reimbursement plans and funding mechanisms continue to be very complicated. Additionally, in 2016, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid instituted a series of new regulations, with a five-year phase in. The requirements are stringent and expensive, costing each facility about $63,000 in the first year and $55,000 in subsequent years, regardless of their number of patients. The industry regards the new regulations as positive and beneficial to patients, but many smaller nursing facilities simply can’t swing the added costs and choose to close. Small town populations are literally dwindling. Families move away after finding their jobs gone, mills closed, and possible replacement jobs offering wages too low to live on. Suddenly, a local nursing home can find itself in a labor crunch, unable to keep doctors on call or find the nurses and support staff to keep all shifts filled 24 hours each day. The plight of the rural nursing home is very real and Lockman is absolutely right to point out how devastating this is to families and their loved ones.

However, Lockman must be called out fomenting racism rather than seeking a honest solution to this problem.  It is long past time to be finding ourselves dealing with leaders who want to make us angry or fearful of newcomers, or who want to separate us with false dichotomies of “us against them,” or use innuendo to make us suspicious. This kind of thinking keeps us locked in a world of prejudice and fear, too paralyzed to envision a better future. We can and must be better than that and look for real solutions to our hard-felt problems. Immigrants can and should be part of our solution. And that’s a fact.

We Applaud Progress on Paid Time Off & Pledge Continued Work to Ensure Protections for All Maine Workers

Southern Maine Workers’ Center and Maine Women’s Lobby Statement on LD 369

Groups Applaud Progress, Pledge Continued Work to Ensure Protections for All Maine Workers

Now that Governor Mills has signed LD 369 into law, Maine will become the 12th state in the country to enact a version of a paid sick time policy, and the first state to pass a general paid time off policy. LD 369 is an important step forward for the workers in Maine who have never been guaranteed any paid time off, and that is something to celebrate. We are proud of the role members of the Southern Maine Workers’ Center and the Maine Women’s Lobby have played for years to elevate the need for paid time off, and to engage workers in fighting for it. We will continue that work until every working person in Maine is covered.

The Southern Maine Workers’ Center and the Maine Women’s Lobby partnered on the issue of earned paid sick time since 2016 and with, the Southern Maine Democratic Socialist of America, built the Keep Workers’ Healthy Coalition that fought a multi-year campaign for an earned paid sick days ordinance in Portland. This bill would have ensured workers in every Portland business could earn up to 5 paid sick days a year.

In rallies, hearings, and on social media, workers bravely stood up for the right to earned paid sick days. Many shared personal stories ranging from sending children to school sick, to experiencing domestic assault, to getting violently ill while working and not being allowed to leave. They spoke on the record to ensure that they, and others, could have the right to heal that so many professionals take for granted. The language of the policy was informed by the lived experience of workers involved in the campaign and the experiences of states and municipalities who had already enacted laws. Our campaign framed paid sick days as a race and gender equity issue, and highlighted the experiences of marginalized workers, including LGBTQ+ families and immigrant communities. We made a compelling case that policy should be universal and cover all workers including part-time, seasonal, and per diem, and include businesses of all sizes.

LD 369 is an important step, and we are grateful in particular, to the leadership of Sen. Rebecca Millet for bringing forward the original legislation. However, work still needs to be done. As amended, the bill excludes people who work at businesses with less than ten employees, seasonal workers, some per diems, state and municipal workers, and others. It has a low accrual rate, making it difficult for part-time workers to use. It includes a preemption clause, which, as intended, undermined the Portland ordinance, and prevents any municipality from passing a more inclusive ordinance in the future. Because of this, some of the very workers who started the push for earned paid sick days in Maine will not be covered by the state law.

We are particularly concerned about the need to ensure protections for workers who attempt to use PTO, including protection from retaliation. The bill contains no definition of what constitutes the emergency use of PTO and places that determination in the hands of managers, leaving workers vulnerable to retaliation.

We will continue to organize to ensure that the rules for how LD 369 is implemented address these needs. Our members will bring their first-hand knowledge to these policy conversations to make sure that workers will actually be able to use the time off they earn for the things they most need it for. When LD 369 goes into effect in 2021, we will educate workers about their rights, and advocate for the workers whose rights are violated. The laws protecting workers are not given, they are fought for, and we will continue that fight.

Dental Care Is Healthcare And Healthcare Is A Human Right

The Maine legislature is considering a bill that would provide access to basic dental care for adults and children on MaineCare. “An Act To Improve Dental Health for Maine Children and Adults with Low Incomes” (LD-1453) would be an important step forward for Maine. As someone who’s been impacted by not having access to dental care I’d like to share my own experience and why dental care is so important.

Growing up I was covered under my parents dental insurance and in my late teens I had a bridge installed after my dentist extracted a molar that never fell out. The dentist recommended a bridge, and thankfully the costs were mostly covered under my mothers dental insurance. As it turns out, bridges don’t last forever, and about 6 years later the bridge fell out, leaving only one side of my mouth functional. When they installed the bridge, they filed down the teeth on either side of the extracted tooth to hold the bridge in place. After the bridge fell out, these teeth were particularly vulnerable to decay and infection because most of the enamel had been filed away when the bridge was installed.

It’s been about 13 years since I’ve had dental insurance and when my bridge fell out, I waited to see a dentist because it would have been a financial stretch just to get it looked at, let alone whatever it would cost to fix. When I finally did see a dentist they told me it would cost about $4,000 dollars to replace the bridge, which would include some work to fix the exposed teeth. There was no way I could afford that, and so my only option was to continue without the bridge, and risk additional problems with my exposed teeth. Soon enough, one of the exposed teeth got infected and had to be pulled. It took a week for the pain to be bad enough for me to setup an appointment with my dentist, again because it was a financial stretch, because I didn’t have dental insurance.

I brush everyday, I floss a couple times a week, yet I was constantly worried about my dental health after my bridge fell out. I can no longer use the right side of my mouth. If I had access to basic dental care I could have seen a dentist immediately after my bridge fell out, I could have scheduled routine cleanings and checkups, I might have been able to afford getting the bridge repaired or replaced, and I certainly would have avoided the excruciating pain that came with waiting longer than I should have to get the infection looked at.

Not having access to basic dental care when on MaineCare leads to frustrating and painful experiences. It can turn small dental issues into major ones that can lead to other health complications and exponentially higher costs. One out of every three low income Mainers have experienced discriminations based on the appearance of their teeth. This gap in MaineCare bolsters some of the worst ways that classism shows up in Maine. As Sarah Smarsh puts it: “the underprivileged are priced out of the dental-treatment system yet are perversely held responsible for their dental condition.”

We can do better. The state of Maine should pass LD 1453, “An Act To Improve Dental Health for Maine Children and Adults with Low Incomes”, and join the majority of other states around the country in providing dental benefits to people on MaineCare. Dental care is health care and health care is a human right!

Thank you.

Mike Lacourse
Member & Organizer
The Southern Maine Workers Center
Portland, Maine

Portland City Council Plays Politics With 9,000 Workers’ Health

May 8th, 2019

Statement of the Southern Maine Workers’ Center

On Monday, the Portland City Council voted 5-4 to reject an ordinance that would have guaranteed earned paid sick days for all Portland workers, regardless of whether they’re part-time, temporary, per diem, or seasonal. City Councilors Spencer Thibodeau (who is running for mayor), Justin Costa (who is also running for mayor), Jill Duson, Nick Mavodones, and Kimberly Cook voted against their colleagues in the Health and Human Services Committee by not supporting the 15 months of work they put into writing an ordinance to meet the unique needs of Portland’s workers and families. They also voted against their constituents, who consistently showed up to hearings in overwhelming majority to the opposition. Workers bravely organized and advocated for the right to earned paid sick time.  

Immediately after the hearing, Arlo Hennessy of the Southern Maine Workers’ Center (SMWC) reflected to supporters gathered outside Council chambers, “Only two city representatives tonight talked about working-class people. It was Councilor Belinda Ray and it was Mayor Ethan Strimling. That is unacceptable.”

“What we saw in that room tonight does not represent our values as a city,” said SMWC executive director DrewChristopher Joy. “They are afraid of the fact that we have organized. They are afraid of the fact that working class people in this city are rising up. This is not an end to the conversation. We will not stop fighting for working class people, for people of color, for women, for trans and queer folks in this city. We will fight for economic justice.”

The vote preceded passage of LD 369 through the Maine Senate, with amendments penned by Governor Janet Mills, which ignores much of the coalition work that went into drafting the original bill. An estimated 9 thousand Portland workers will be left out of the state bill, including some who started this very campaign. The amendments would also block local municipalities from implementing their own paid sick leave rules, a process known as preemption. Preemption is not beneficial to Portland workers as it allows no way for the city to choose to implement a paid sick days policy that will cover all workers–as the local ordinance would have.

The dissenting members of City Council are clearly showing their hand as being on the side of the Chamber of Commerce, MaineHealth, and Wex, the big business entities that have fought against the campaign from the beginning, rather than Portland’s low-wage workers, the true backbone of our economy.

We are thankful to the more than 40 organizations and businesses in the Keep Portland Healthy Coalition and the coalition working with Sen. Rebecca Millett for shepherding LD 369 through the legislative process. We urge Gov. Mills to strike preemption from her amendment, and we call on the Portland City Council, the Portland Delegation, and the Joint Standing Committee on Housing and Labor to oppose this dangerous precedent. While we celebrate steps forward on this issue, we have always advocated that earned paid sick days are a universal right for all workers and we will continue to do so.

Earned paid sick days: Portland should not wait for the state, unedited

I’ve been involved in the campaign to pass a universal earned paid sick time ordinance in the city of Portland since late June 2017. Over nearly twenty two months, I’ve been impressed by the growth in our coalition and the snowballing of public involvement in the campaign. After the most recent city council hearing, where we heard from fifty supporters of EPSD, I noticed that none of the media coverage picked up on the level of popular support for the ordinance and wrote this letter in response to an article published by the Bangor Daily News. Although my letter fell within their prescribed 200 word limit, they printed it without noting that we outnumbered our opponents five to one at the hearing, and they left out the letter’s last sentence, which directly took city councilors to task for dragging their feet on an issue that voters care about. I believe that the Bangor Daily News’s decision to publish a weakened version of my letter is representative of the media’s general failure to report the full extent of public support for earned paid sick time. My original letter appears below:

I attended the recent Earned Paid Sick Leave hearing in front of the Portland City Council. I’d like to supplement your coverage of the hearing (see here) so that readers better understand the issue. First, large employers’ concerns about losing their PTO policies are unfounded. The Portland ordinance allows businesses to enact an equivalent PTO policy. To quote section 35-2(h): “If an Employer provides paid time off to employees under a PTO, vacation or other policy that complies with [the EPSD ordinance], the Employer is not required to track and keep a separate record of accrual and use of earned sick time”.

Second, your article failed to convey the magnitude of grassroots support for this ordinance. On April eighth, fifty people testified in support of the ordinance, and only ten in opposition. Supporters were workers, parents, small business owners, and union members. Having watched over fifteen months of deliberation, we are ready for the council to vote on this important public health measure. Testimony at the previous two hearings suggests that Portland voters care about Earned Paid Sick Leave. In November, we will remember those councilors who, without regard for public opinion or public health, decided to “wait for the state”.

Morgana Warner-Evans


1115 Waiver Approved – Mainers Unite to Defend MaineCare

In October we launched our campaign against the 1115 MaineCare waiver, because these attacks on MaineCare will move us further away from our vision of a universal, publicly funded health care system. Yesterday, the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) approved Maine’s 1115 waiver application, paving the way for thousands of Mainers to lose their health care coverage. Just as we are finally poised to win MaineCare expansion, the LePage-appointed DHHS administration continues advancing its agenda to dismantle MaineCare. We are committed to stoping the implementation of the waiver, and to building a powerful movement to win a health care system based on our human rights, not corporate profits. Read our press release about the approval below.

For Immediate Release
Contact: Meaghan LaSala

Portland, ME: The Southern Maine Workers’ Center and coalition partners are committed to stopping implementation of Maine’s 1115 Demonstration Waiver, approved Friday, December 21st by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). If implemented, the 1115 Waiver will fundamentally restructure MaineCare, stripping many people of their access to care by creating deadly bureaucratic and financial barriers. In Arkansas where similar measures have been implemented, thousands of Medicaid recipients have lost coverage.

On October 28, The Southern Maine Workers’ Center launched a campaign against the waiver, and has been organizing Mainers who would be impacted by the changes.

Mark James is a member of the Southern Maine Workers’ Center, and a MaineCare recipient. James said at the campaign-launch, “I wasn’t working when I was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma the first time. I knew if I hadn’t had MaineCare I probably would have died. I was living in Aroostook county, in rural northern Maine, where there are not a lot of jobs. They say this is to incentivize work. I say these requirements are set up to kick working poor people off of MaineCare.”

DHHS misleadingly portrays the 1115 waiver as a way to incentivize work in order to distract from its aims to cut access to healthcare, stigmatize low-income people, undercut both MaineCare and the Affordable Care Act, and transfer resources from poor people to corporations and the wealthy. In addition to punitive work requirements, the changes would include new cost burdens, premiums, penalties and fees, asset tests, fines for missed appointments, and burdensome, expensive paperwork.
For more information about the campaign against the waiver, contact Workers’ Center member Meaghan LaSala: 973-862-7105,



You’re invited to…



 What is it?

The Southern Maine Workers’ Center is hosting its biggest grassroots fundraising event of the year, and we need your help! On Saturday, February 9th at 8pm, SMWC members will be gathering at the Apohadion Theater in Portland to sing their hearts out and raise money to support the core programs of SMWC, from the Workers’ Rights Legal Clinic to our organizing against Medicaid work requirements to our political education work in the community and more!


How does it work?

It’s kind of like raising money to run in a road race…except your road race is a night of karaoke! Each person will commit to raising a certain amount of money. For the month ahead of the event, you’ll use an online fundraising platform to make a personalized page to tell your community why you are raising money for SMWC. Using social media, personal emails, or in person asks, you’ll be inviting people you know to donate to SMWC. To make it fun you can promise to sing an embarrassing song at karaoke or offering to let your highest donor choose your song. Members of SMWC fundraising committee will be available to support you to set up your page or think about how to meet your goal.

To celebrate our success, we will participate in a super fun, really sweet night of karaoke singing with the broader SMWC community on Saturday, February 9th, at the Apohadion Theater in Portland at 107 Hanover Street. There will be drinks, food, and lots of charming singing. We promise.


What’s the fundraising goal?

We have set a goal of raising $10,000 with this event. This is our biggest fundraising goal EVER!  It’s going to take a collective member effort to make sure we realize it!


What if karaoke is my worst nightmare?

You can still sign up to raise money and just attend the event. This is a consent-based model: no one has to do karaoke if they don’t want to!


How can I sign up?

Just tell one of the Fundraising Committee members you want to do it, and we’ll send you a link to the fundraising platform. You can talk to: Jo Bell, Sue Bragg, John Ochira, Jan Bindas-Tenney, Nicole Manganelli, or Drew Joy. We’re so excited!! THANK YOU!

For LGBTQ+ young people, access to affordable, comprehensive, low-barrier healthcare is a lifeline.

Good afternoon! My name is Osgood and I’m the Director of Portland Outright.

As an organization by and for low-income LGBTQ+ people, Portland Outright’s work is inextricably linked to the work of organizing for the human right healthcare. Every time Outright youth leaders organize–for better access to healthy foods for incarcerated youth, for the right to live in safe housing, for trans-competent healthcare providers–this is the work of healthcare justice.

For LGBTQ+ young people, access to affordable, comprehensive, low-barrier healthcare is a lifeline. We see the work of advancing health equity for marginalized communities as integral to ending youth incarceration and youth homelessness. Lack of resources and barriers to good health perpetuate the criminalization of LGBTQ+/GNC youth. As an alternative to incarceration, LGBTQ+ youth need therapeutic, holistic, trauma-informed, community-based care and healing. Outright is an LGBTQ+ youth-led movement whose aim is to achieve this vision of health and equity for our communities.

Recently, the Trump administration announced plans to roll back the basic rights of Transgender people–hard won victories which protect trans people’s right to self-determination, to healthcare and to safe housing, to be safe at school and at work. Since that time, communities around our country have suffered brutal attacks on their safety and lives–in community spaces and in public.

We also know that acts of state violence–including the state violence which drives cuts to MaineCare, including the changes proposed in the 1115 Waiver –disproportionately impacts people of color, queer and trans folks, and low-income people in our community. That this kind of systemic violence is a tactic used to keep us divided, to stop us from building the collective power needed to transform our communities.

When the state creates scarcity–in services, in resources, in care–there have always been community networks that open their doors and pick up the slack. We draw power from and model our programs after generations of trans people living in the margins who created deep abundance and rich networks of support from very little. It is in this tradition that we understand youth organizing and anti-oppression work as an act of love.

We must continue to organize and to take care of one another, because this is the key to our survival and creates the blueprint for the world we are building together. Our healthcare system should reflect the vision and values that are present in the work we do together everyday–interdependence, healing, justice. Now, more than ever, we must organize boldly and broadly towards the world we know is possible.

The 1115 Medicaid Waiver is Just Another War on the Poor

On Sunday, October 28th, the Southern Maine Workers’ Center held the Rally to Protect and Expand Access to Health Care. The rally connected the dots between the well-known issue of MaineCare expansion, which, while passed by voters has still not been implemented; lesser know attacks on our health care system, including the proposed Section 1115 Waiver which would create, among other things, job requirements for Medicaid; and the growing momentum in a nationwide call  for Medicare for All. We’re sharing some of the powerful speeches from the rally so they continue to inspire the health care is a human right movement in Maine. Now is the time to hold our newly elected officials accountable to enact their promises to improve health care. Please let your representative know that you opposed the proposed changes to MaineCare in the 1115 Waiver.  Please let Governor-elect that in addition to implementing the medicaid expansion, we need  her to rescind the 1115 Waiver!

Mark James, Member of SMWC’s Health Care is a Human Right Committee

Hello, my name is Mark James. I’m a grateful MaineCare recipient. I’m grateful because without it I would be dead. I wasn’t working when I was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma the first time. I knew if I hadn’t had MaineCare I would probably have died. It all happened so fast. I was living in Aroostook county, in rural northern Maine, where there are not a lot of jobs. The MaineCare 1115 waiver and proposed work requirements do not consider geography, or the fact that many people go without work because there is none to be had. Health care shouldn’t be equated with how many good paying jobs there are in your region of the state.

These waiver requirements are set up to discriminate against the working poor, and find ways to kick people off MaineCare. These punitive work requirements don’t take into account people who work hard taking care of loved ones, which is generally unpaid. I know, because I was a full-time caretaker for both my mother, and my partner of 27 years. When you are caring full time for a loved one, you don’t have time to constantly fill out paperwork.

The paperwork associated with these work requirements is costly bureaucracy, and will lead to many people who should be exempt still losing their coverage because of new barriers they have to overcome. Not to mention, if you miss a premium, fee or co-payment, they could kick you off your MaineCare after just 90 days! So, if you’re working poor and you get sick and can’t pay the premium, you’re screwed either way.

They say this is to incentivize work. I say these requirements are set up to kick working poor people off MaineCare. These policies are setting people up for failure. This does nothing to move us towards our goal of universal health care. It’s another war on the poor to discriminate and humiliate people. That is why I am glad to be part of a movement that sees people’s humanity. We need universal healthcare now, because Health Care is a Human Right!