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Pattavina would focus on health care, opioid crisis

Senate District 11 Democratic primary
By Fran Gonzalez | Jun 22, 2020
Courtesy of: Charles Pattavina, Facebook Charles Pattavina is running for the Democratic nomination for Senate District 11.

Winterport — Dr. Charles Pattavina said decades of medical politics and advocacy work have made him a good listener, which, in turn, will make him a good state senator.

Pattavina, a semi-retired emergency physician from Winterport, is running for Senate District 11, along with fellow Democrats Robyn Stanicki and Chip Curry, in the July 14 primary, and the winner will face Republican candidate Duncan Milne in November in the race for Senate District 11. The seat is currently held by Sen. Erin Herbig, who declined to seek reelection after she was hired as city manager of Belfast.

In a June 3 interview with The Republican Journal, Pattavina said, "Good listening is part of medicine, and I’m fortunate to be successful in medicine.

“I do think being present, paying attention to people and listening well is a big part of that,” he said. “It’s not my job to impose my views on the people of the district, but as much as possible to represent their interests.”

Pattavina has held leadership positions on medical staffs, in hospitals and professional organizations, including the national board of the American College of Emergency Physicians, and most recently as president of the Maine Medical Association from 2016 to 2018, and he has been involved in federal, state and local advocacy.

He had always thought in the back of his mind that he might want to serve on the “other side and actually take care of, in a sense, a larger number of people at once,” he said.

Lending a hand to a friend who was running for Congress in Rhode Island five years ago, Pattavina could see the lure of “feeling like you have the responsibility of caring for a large number of people at one time and maybe make their lives better.”

He grew up in Braintree, Massachusetts, went to public schools and attended Boston College High School, Boston College, and medical school at Boston University.

Civility in politics and in everyday life is important to him. “We can see how the wrong kind of leadership leads to division,” he said. “We’ve seen people on the state level who have had opportunities to do things to bring us together or unite us. People don’t always take advantage of those opportunities.

“We’ve seen the Maine House and Senate act in very divisive ways. You don’t have to be the president or the governor in order to lead by example that brings people together in a constructive way.”

Climate change, health care and income inequality are also at the top of his to-do list.

On income inequality, he said, “We have hardworking people that can’t afford health insurance. That's what made the Medicaid expansion so important.” Even though we now have insurance for the working poor, he said, we must explore more options that will cover more people with affordable plans and start by looking at what successful states have done, including Massachusetts and Hawaii.

The first step he said, is to determine who is still uninsured. “They could be people who can afford reasonable premiums that would fund decent coverage, thereby addressing some of the cost.”

Some funding can also come from existing government resources. “There is already significant money being spent to care for the uninsured through cost-shifting in premiums and taxes,” he said. “That money needs to be spent in a more efficient, cost-effective and compassionate way so people get the right care at the right times.”

Some people who are currently covered have high premiums and costly deductibles and co-pays, “and things that aren’t covered due to a number of maneuvers favored by the private insurance industry,” Pattavina said. “Because some of these plans exist under federal law, we will have to hope, (and work) for a new direction from the federal government."

He said the federal tax cut bill of 2017 was “horrible.” Not only did it repeal the individual mandate for the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, but it was also a huge tax cut for wealthy people who did not necessarily want it. This tax bill places the burden on the middle class. “Even though we are stuck with this on a federal level for now,” he said, “I’d like to see what Maine can do.

“If people think this is going to cost a lot of money,” he said, “I am happy to point out … they are already paying for their health care, whether it's with taxes or other means — why don’t we provide decent care in an organized fashion?”

Thanks to Gov. Mills, we now have Medicare expansion and so many more people can get the treatment and medication they need, he said.

Speaking about the opioid epidemic, Pattavina said physicians “own” some responsibility for the crisis because they are writing the prescriptions, as are the nurse practitioners. He said the “marketing tentacles of the drug companies that are pushing this (opioids) are just horrifying."

“Every doctor knows these drugs are addictive,” he said. “I didn’t know how addictive they were for some people.” Pain prescriptions for dental or orthopedic problems can easily lead to addiction.

Because of the current Medicare expansion, “I had a few people at the start of the COVID epidemic that came out of jail, they were treated with suboxone in jail, and then referred to treatment, to help them get a job and a place to live. It’s a different world than it was a couple years ago. It is hopeful, but it is also a severe epidemic,” he said.

The challenges of COVID-19, he said, have caused his campaign to take unexpected turns. “It is mostly a one-man show,” he said.

“I’ve heard how people normally campaigned by going door to door,” he said. “But that has been completely off the table right from the beginning.” He came up short to receive Clean Elections funding, and said it was a “setback having to raise money from family and colleagues and other supporters.”

Besides that, he has enjoyed talking to people on the phone. “I enjoy it too much and I talk way longer than is advised," he said. "It’s enjoyable, and being a newbie to the process, I hope I’m doing it right.”

Pattavina said he visited Erin Herbig during the last session with a group concerned about the vaccine bill to remove exemptions from required vaccines for any but medical reasons. He befriended one resident in the group who later pointed out to him that Herbig was not running again, and asked what he thought about running. “So it’s really Erin’s fault” that he is in the Senate race, he said.

While he will be outspoken on a number of issues, including health care, Pattavina said he will be one of many legislators, “which is why my experience working with others will be key to making major progress on issues, many of which have waited too long.”

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