Jay McCreight: It’s time to pass health care for Maine women

Jay McCreight: It’s time to pass health care for Maine women

Rep. McCreight’s bill, Act To Strengthen the Economic Stability of Qualified Maine Citizens by Expanding Coverage of Reproductive Health Care and Family Services (LD 319), was passed unanimously in the Maine Senate today after passing the House 80-67. It now heads to the desk of Governor Paul LePage for approval or veto.

LD 319 is about economic security. And it’s a bill about access to reproductive health care and family planning services. Why put these two issues together? Because access to these services allows any of us to have greater control over the critical decisions of timing and spacing of children and over long-term health, educational, and career decisions – all of which are essential to economic security. We must recognize that these issues are tied inextricably together. In fact, the CDC has named family planning, including access to the most modern, most effective contraception, as one of the 10 great public health achievements of the 20th century.

“[…]access to these services allows any of us to have greater control over the critical decisions of timing and spacing of children and over long-term health, educational, and career decisions – all of which are essential to economic security.”

LD 319 will help reduce the number of Maine’s children and families living in poverty and will help reduce long-term costs to Maine taxpayers. For the last 20 years, health care legislation has allowed any state to expand Medicaid eligibility for reproductive health care and family planning with a 9 x 1 Federal match for low income individuals.

This Federal match policy has been in place for more than 40 years. Though 30 states have chosen to expand eligibility, Maine has not yet done so. We have an opportunity to change that. We have the ability to allow low-income women and men to have health care coverage specifically for reproductive and family planning services from any qualified health care provider (not limited to any particular health center or provider) and through that provider, have access to the most effective modern contraceptive methods, as well as screening and treatment for cancer and sexually transmitted infections.

  • Early diagnosis and treatment of cancer and STIs decreases the chance of illness and serious long-term health and economic consequences and reduces the chance of infection of others.
  • Access to contraception means women can plan for the optimal time to choose to have children. Planning the timing of first children translates to better prenatal care and fewer of the health complications more common in both teen and unplanned pregnancies.

  • With access to effective contraception, women can also choose to space children, taking into account health, educational, and economic factors. This increases their chances of actually achieving their educational goals and their ability to make thoughtful decisions about work and career; both of which translate to greater economic stability and self-sufficiency — that’s good everybody – good for parents, good for children who are less likely to grow up in poverty (18), and good for the Maine taxpayer who is less likely to need to provide long-term, tax-dollar funded support.

Every dollar invested in women’s preventive health care including birth control, saves Maine taxpayers $4 by reducing the number of and costs associated with unintended pregnancies. In fact, it is estimated that we will save taxpayers $100,000 in year one and up to $3 million by the third year of this program. – I need to stress that this funding does not cover abortion services which cannot be paid for by Federal or State dollars (the Hyde Amendment).

On a personal note, I spent my 30+ year career as a social worker specializing in work with children and families. I worked with the mothers of middle schoolers who were only 14 or 15 years older than their oldest child. Their ongoing struggle with poverty and all it’s long-term implications for themselves and their children is heartbreaking and in many cases could be avoidable.

I also worked with the couple hoping to adopt a child after discovering they were unable to conceive due to sterility caused by an undiscovered and untreated sexually transmitted disease. We, as legislators, can help change this.

This is a commonsense bill. It allows us to help the growth of financially secure, physically healthy and self-sufficient families while also saving taxpayer dollars, by offering Mainers a real pathway to lift themselves out of poverty.

Photo of participants at Maine Women’s Day at the legislature, via Andi Parkinson.

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Jay McCreight
Jay McCreight 1 posts

Rep. Jay McCreight represents Harpswell, West Bath and part of Brunswick in the Maine House. She serves on the Judiciary and Marine Resources committees.

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