In September, the American Heart Association had its annual Central Maine Heart Walk in Auburn. More than 1,200 people committed to ensuring Mainers reduce their chances of heart disease and stroke, raising more than $125,000 for research and public education.

It makes sense, Mainers face significant barriers to heart health. Part of that is due to having one of the most rapidly aging populations in New England, as well as being a state with expanses of rural country with limited access to health care providers.

Together, with policy-makers and community leaders, we are working to increase access to preventative care, screenings and education to decrease the risks for cardiovascular disease. A healthy diet, daily physical activity, quitting smoking, managing cholesterol and blood pressure are some of the most important steps to keep healthy.

However, there is one thing that the majority of us cannot do — take action to accept federal funds to provide MaineCare for the nearly 70,000 Mainers who qualify for coverage but have fallen into the income gap.

The governor and elected officials must seize the opportunity to gain 100 percent federally-funded health care for low-income Mainers – veterans, parents and adults who, although often working one or more jobs, don’t have enough income to qualify for health insurance subsidies.

I urge lawmakers to take notice of the support for heart health in Maine — and help us continue to combat heart disease and stroke by voting to accept the federal funds on Day One of the next legislative session.

Becky Smith, Brunswick

Director of government relations, American Heart Association in Maine

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