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Good morning. This is Governor John Baldacci.

I know that the Number 1 issue on the mind of Mainers is the economy.

And it should be. It’s going to take everyone, working together for our country to pull itself out of the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression.

Part of the path forward requires that we reform our health care system.

You can’t separate health care from the economy.

And costs for health care are out of control.

Between 1996 and 2006, the average health insurance premiums for families nearly doubled, to almost $12,000 a year. In some cases, people are working just to pay their health insurance premiums.

Even if premiums grow at a slower rate, we will see a greater portion of every family’s paycheck going to health insurance.

We’ve seen in Maine where our reforms have slowed the growth of health care costs, but they are still far too high.

So when employers see health care costs doubling, their workers are forced to carry more of the burden.

Even successful companies are being forced to sink more resources into health care or drop coverage altogether.

And they are competing against countries and companies that don’t even pay for health care.

It’s hurting our entire economy.

As the cost of providing health care grows, it’s placing a bigger and bigger burden upon the federal, state and local government.

Here in Maine, more than 35 percent of the State budget is spent on health care.

Health care costs are growing faster than our economy.

And for all this spending, we’re still seeing more than 45 million people in this country who lack health insurance.

So we’re spending too much and too many people are getting too little in return.

Maine has been a national leader in making sure our people have access to health care. Only four states have been more successful in reducing the number of uninsured.

We have set the standard for providing access and quality health care, and implemented many reforms now being pursued on the national level.

In Maine, we show that we can improve our health care system.

But no state budget – Maine’s included - can withstand the pressure of ever increasing costs.

President Obama has started a national conversation on health insurance reform.

This week, I traveled to Portsmouth, N.H., to meet with the President and to hear his thoughts on how we can improve health care insurance in the United States.

And on Thursday, I spoke with Sen. Snowe, other governors and members of the Senate Finance Committee in Washington on the difficult balance that must be struck when reforming health care insurance.

Right now, there’s a lot of fear and misinformation out there.

And there’s some silly talk, meant mostly to confuse people or scare them.

But ultimately, the question facing our nation today on health care insurance is this:

Are we satisfied with the status quo, or are we prepared to make some real changes that will control costs and insure that everyone has quality, affordable health care?

Without real and meaningful reform, we are all at risk of losing access to good health care.

The costs on individuals, families, businesses and government will swallow future growth.

So Maine has led the way in addressing health reform, but we know that workable solutions at the national level are needed more than ever.

We can’t do it without Washington’s help.

We can improve the quality and access to health care.

And we can do it in a way that contains costs.

And Maine has proven it.

Now we must take this important opportunity to make national progress.

I believe that we can work together to find the best path forward.

Nothing is more personal to people than their own health and the health of their family.

That’s why the President and I agree that no insurance company or drug company accountant should overrule the doctor-patient relationship.

Medical decisions and health care decisions for Mainers or Americans should be determined by doctors and nurses.

In Maine, we have taken on many of the issues, including expanding affordable health insurance options, promoting preventative health and enacting consumer protections.

Just last month, we launched a pilot program that will help people get the information they need to better manage their own health care.

We also created a scholarship program that will help to defray the tuition for medical school students who will be able to practice medicine in more of our rural areas of the State of Maine.

Maine’s experience shows that while health care reform is hard work, it’s vital that all of us come together to commit ourselves to finding common ground.

When we do, things will get better.

All of us politically – Democrat, Republican and Independent -- want hard-working families and businesses to prosper and thrive. Right now, our current system is holding back too many people. It’s burdening too many families.

There is a better way, and I am confident we can find it.

Thank you and have a great weekend.

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