Sebelius holds health-care discussion in Maine

SOUTH PORTLAND, Maine (AP) - The nation's health secretary lobbied Thursday for overhauling the nation's health-care system, speaking in the home state of a Republican senator who holds a key vote on a committee that is crafting bipartisan legislation.

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius told a group of about 70 women that reform is particularly important for them because women are more likely than men to be uninsured or underinsured. Her comments came during a panel discussion with leaders of women's advocacy groups and other invited guests who shared their stories about health care.

Kathleen Sebelius

AP Photo/Shawn Patrick Ouellette

Kathleen Sebelius, secretary of Health and Human Services, speaks on health care issues in South Portland, Maine Thursday Sept.3, 2009.

The current health-care debate is similar to the back-and-forth discussions over a federal health insurance program for seniors that led to the passage of Medicare in 1965, she said.

"When we made that big step 44 years ago, it was a tough battle," Sebelius said. "Lots of people said, 'This is a terrible program.' Lots of people called it socialized medicine."

Sebelius has visited at least seven other states since the spring, speaking in support of President Barack Obama's health-care proposals.

Her visit to Maine comes as Obama and White House aides have been talking to Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, in hopes of getting her support. Snowe serves on the Senate Finance Committee that is drafting a plan.

U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-Maine, who was on the panel, said everyone knows Snowe has a key role in helping write bipartisan health-care legislation.

"We hope the secretary's presence encourages her to keep working at it," Pingree said.

Sebelius also participated in a panel discussion in Orono. The two events were closed to the public, but open to the media.

Georgette Kanach of Gray told the gathering at South Portland that she sometimes goes without food or doesn't pay her electric bills so she can buy medication to treat her breast cancer. Even with health insurance, her co-payments eat up most of her limited fixed income, she said.

"If I lose my health insurance, I don't know what I'd do," she said.

Sebelius also announced that Maine has been awarded an $8.5 million grant over five years to expand health-care coverage for uninsured residents. The grant comes from the Health and Human Services' new State Health Access Program.

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These "shows" with

These "shows" with pre-screened participants are an insult to the citizens of this country. Iam leery of the government promising me the stars and the moon, but not specifying what they want to offer us, nor what this will cost, and who will pay for it. To say the rich will is just baiting us with falsehoods as the rich will be smart enough and have enough lobbyists to make sure they don't pay. There is also a lot of lobbying $$$$ after this bill. We have aa great system as we are that could be tweaked to cover those that are not covered. Do we want the government to force us to buy insurance? Do we want the government to tax us to support a government plan? Remember this is the government that can't run a competitive postal service! Just make certain insurance is available at a price fair to both the industry and its clients to all. Make those who don't have insurance yet can afford it pay for their care. Don't goofup a system that has developed over the years. Major changes will have many major consequences.

Timothy Stevens's picture

Tron, you have no idea what

Tron, you have no idea what my intentions or thoughts are. I do have questions that I would like the opportunity to ask, and get answers to. I am actually able to hold a reasoned discourse, and not jump to conclusions. I like to get facts and make a reasoned choice.

Timothy Stevens's picture

I'm so glad that our

I'm so glad that our Congressional Representatives and Senators are holding open forums to discuss this issue...Oh, wait! That's right...they aren't!


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