Pres. Jackson, Rep. Evans introduce bill to advance affordable health care coverage

AUGUSTA – Rep. Richard Evans, D-Dover Foxcroft, introduced legislation Tuesday to improve health care affordability and increase options for comprehensive coverage for individuals and small businesses in Maine. If passed into law, LD 1778 would require the Office of Affordable Health Care, an independent, nonpartisan agency, to analyze barriers to affordable health care and develop proposals on potential methods to improve affordability and coverage.

Speaking before the Legislature’s Health Coverage, Insurance and Financial Services Committee, Evans said that without access to affordable health care, Maine families and communities suffer. “Access to affordable health care is not just an issue of quality of life. It is an economic imperative,” said Evans. “I think we can all agree that Maine’s local, small businesses and entrepreneurs are the backbone of our state’s economy, especially in rural areas like the communities I represent. For those small businesses and entrepreneurs, the cost of health care is burdensome, and would-be entrepreneurs are held back from starting their own businesses by the difficulties accessing affordable health care.”

According to a 2020 survey released by West Health and Maine Consumers for Affordable Health Care, health care costs are increasing for three out of four Maine families. The survey also found that roughly 219,000 people in Maine have been unable to pay for drugs or medicine that a doctor prescribed, and that more than 100,000 people in Maine have experienced a death of a friend or family member in the past five years because they couldn’t afford medical treatment.

Maine Senate President Troy Jackson, D-Allagash, a cosponsor of LD 1778, testified before the committee in support of the measure.

“In the Maine Legislature, we haven’t been afraid to take on Big Pharma whether it’s passing a suite of prescription drug reform bills, creating an insulin safety net program or clamping down on abusive billing practices. These are good first steps but the health care system is so complicated that meaningful reform can feel impossible. Large corporations from Big Pharma to insurance giants and pharmacy benefit managers have gone great lengths to shield their outrageous profits from any one piece of legislation or new law,” said Jackson. “Rep. Evans’ bill puts the newly established Office of Affordable Health Care to work identifying barriers to coverage and assessing the impact of recent legislation. If we are going to deliver health care and prescription drug reform to hardworking Maine families, we need to know how our policies are working and how we can build on them in the future.”

The Health Coverage, Insurance and Financial Services Committee will hold a work session on LD 1778 in the coming weeks before the measure is considered by the full Legislature.

Evans is a physician and surgeon and represents the communities of Atkinson, Brownville, Dover-Foxcroft, Lake View, Medford, Milo and Orneville Township in Piscataquis County. He serves on the Health Coverage, Insurance and Financial Services Committee. 

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