Working as a policy intern at Consumers for Affordable Health Care this summer placed me into the center of the health-care reform debate. I now speak from my experience to all Maine residents.

With Congress crafting a health reform bill, it’s essential for Mainers to voice support for change. American families need access to care they can afford.

A necessary component of reform is having a public health insurance option. Not offering a quality, affordable public option will leave thousands of Mainers and millions of Americans uninsured. People will continue entering emergency rooms rather than seeing primary care physicians — avoiding more effective, less expensive preventive care. This results in billions of dollars in unnecessary costs, forcing our most vulnerable population into enormous debt.

A public option will provide competition — keeping insurance companies in check. An insurance company’s main business incentive is to make money. This industry makes multi-billion dollar profits by exploiting customers with exorbitant rates and sparse coverage. Leaving health coverage solely in the hands of for-profit enterprises is ludicrous.

Liken the situation to public school systems. Public schools offer a government-subsidized alternative to private schools. This option exists because sending millions of children who can’t afford private school into the world without an education is wrong and would tear the country apart. The same concept applies to health care.

Having quality, affordable health coverage should be every American’s right.

Zachary Jylkka, Lewiston

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