April 14, 2024

Island heath care and Progressives, a story from Rep. Chellie Pingree.

Congresswoman Chellie Pingree has lived her adult life on Maine’s North Haven Island, a place with just 350 people. This is a story she tells about what we can all learn from life on her island. –An excerpt from Episode 3 of the Progressive Way podcast.

Small towns in Maine have town meeting where people come on the first Saturday in March and go through every item on the agenda. People have an opportunity to weigh in on how much money should we spend fixing the potholes and the fire department. What should our school cost? And they know it’s coming out of their taxes.

I’ve lived in this small town for 40 years. It started out as a very Republican town, so it’s not a partisan issue. But when you live on an island an hour away from the mainland, the one thing people really worry about is what happens if I get sick. So every year at town meeting, they vote to subsidize a doctor, because 350 people would never provide enough income for a doctor or any kind of medical practitioner to be practical.

Even though the cost goes up every year – even though everyone knows that some people can’t pay their bills – the town sets aside an amount of money out of their own taxes to pay the doctor. I mean it’s as close as you get to socialized medicine and these are curmudgeony fisherman and Republican old guys supporting it. But I use that story a lot to say, when you put people in a room and you ask what’s fundamental and what’s important, they say, “Well, everybody has got to have good medical care.” And people know that some people don’t pay their bills, that there are old people who don’t have enough money, that people go through hard times when they lose their job, but everybody in town knows that a little bit of their tax money is keeping the doctor there, so it can be for people who have a lot of money and people who don’t.

When people sit back and think about this story, they say, “Yeah. You know, I guess if it came down to that I’d always want to have medical care and even if I had to chip in a little bit for somebody else I’d know they’d chip it in for me if I went through a hard time.”

One of the things I’d say about being a Progressive is I try very hard not to get myself locked into a box so that people are frightened that I’m coming at them with an ideology. I represent a district that’s a third Republican, a third Democrat, and a third Independent, so there’s no way I can just align myself with a certain group of people and say I don’t care what the rest of you think. But I find a majority of ideas cut across all ideological lines and if you go about it talking to people about, “Hey, how do we change our access to food and the quality of the food that we receive? How do we buy more from local farmers? How do we keep farmers on the land?” I mean I never meet a person who basically argues with me about it and I’m sure probably more Republicans raise their hand than Democrats when you talk about do you want to make sure your kids have healthy food in the school cafeteria and would you like to buy it from a local farmer.

To see more about Rep. Pingree’s home, visit northhavenmaine.org


  1. hannah honeyman says:

    we should make her president!

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  2. Jude Hockman says:

    I like the “cutting across lines” because it seems like enough sense to *bring us together* so we can actually get something done!

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