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This is Governor John Baldacci.

We see examples that Americans are dealing with a sagging national economy every day.

Families are struggling to pay bills and put food on the table, while worrying about how to stay warm with winter quickly approaching.

Budgets are tight and costs keep going up.

On top of everything else, we cannot allow health care insecurity to be another burden added to our list of worries.

This has never been a more important issue than it is today.

However, Maine has been a leader in providing quality health care coverage.

Continuing this work is important to making Maine a healthier State, keeping our heath care costs down and having a healthy economy.

When I first became Governor, we found that one of the biggest challenges facing small businesses was the high costs of health insurance.

So, to help remedy the problem, we established Dirigo Health Reform in 2003. Dirigo’s foundation was to help individuals and small businesses with fifty or fewer employees, and the self-employed. At that time, Maine had the highest rate of uninsured in New England.

By 2006, Maine was the only New England State to see our rate of uninsured decrease and by 2007, even with capped enrollment in the program Maine still was among the lowest rates of uninsured in the NATION, according to the latest U.S. census.

So, great strides have been made in terms of covering the uninsured.

This program was established to help individuals who are earning too much to qualify for Medicaid, but not enough to pay for health insurance all by themselves.

Now, while the health insurance covered through Dirigo is just part of the solution, it's an important part, and it has literally saved lives.

I spoke with a young woman who says because of DirigoChoice coverage, she was able to have a checkup with her family doctor, knowing that her mother had cancer, she was assuming that she also had cancer but could not afford to go to the doctor’s to have the tests necessary.

Under DirigoChoice coverage, she was able to get that checkup and it showed that she did also have cancer, but she caught it in the early stages and she was able to get treatments thanks to Dirigo.

Even if that were the only story – even if her life was the only one saved – that is important to me and I know that’s important to you.

But the truth is there are more stories and there are healthier people, families and businesses who are surviving today.

I talked to a man who is over in Naples, started his own little business because he wanted to go out on his own, work with his wife and daughter, and have their own family business.

But, health care was the one bridge that he couldn’t cross until he was able to get DirigoChoice coverage.

There are 620 small businesses like his and there are 29,000 Mainers having access to affordable health insurance since its inception.

But what’s keeping it from bridging more and more lives and more and more small businesses and self-employed is finding sustainable financing.

Earlier this year, the Legislature passed – and I signed – sustainable financing for this program.

Now I know there are organizations who are upset about the tax on beer and wine and soda. If we are ever going to be able to try to provide universal coverage to all of our citizens, there are going to have to be sacrifices that are made.

But I believe that if we can have healthy people, we will have a healthy economy.

The law containing the beverage tax will also decrease an existing tax on health claims. Yes, you heard me correctly – it will DECREASE an existing tax on health claims.

Because the present program is self-funded by health care dollars, there is an assessment on health claims to pay for the health care coverage being provided.

Granted, it's a complicated formula, but health care is complicated practice. Under the new plan, the tax is cut in more than half.

I understand that people are fed up with taxes, but there are hardworking Mainers out there who are fed up with not having quality health care coverage.

There are families, small businesses, self-employed people out there who are fighting and working hard every single day that don’t have quality health care coverage. These people are your friends, your neighbors and your co-workers.

Dirigo is a hand-up, not a hand-out.

So, the Maine Medical Association – and all the doctors, and nurses and other health care professionals – the Consumers for Affordable Health Care, the Bishop, Catholic Diocese all standing together and urging voters in Maine to support health care by voting “no” on 1.

So if you believe as I do that quality, affordable health insurance should continue in Maine, I would also urge you to vote "no" on Question One.

A "no" vote on Question One is a "yes" vote for the people of Maine and a healthier State for the future.

Thank you.

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