Maine families, seniors and advocates urge lawmakers to pass the COVID-19 Patient Bill of Rights

AUGUSTA – Today, Senate President Troy Jackson of Allagash and House Speaker Ryan Fecteau of Biddeford presented LD 1, “An Act to Establish the COVID-19 Patient Bill of Rights” at a public hearing before the Legislature’s Health Coverage, Insurance and Financial Services Committee. Maine seniors, health care professionals, patients and advocates overwhelmingly testified in favor of the legislation. Here is what supporters are saying: 


“Since the start of the pandemic, Mainers over 50 have been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19,” said Lori Parham, AARP Maine State Director. “LD 1 is an important step in protecting older Mainers and their families from the health and economic impacts of the virus as well as preparing Maine for future emergencies.”


“LD 1, the COVID-19 Patient Bill of Rights, really is a bold approach to safeguarding and ensuring Mainer’s access to COVID testing, treatment and the vaccine,” said Ann Woloson, Executive Director of Maine Consumers for Affordable Health Care. “By safeguarding consumer protections and access to other important health care services through telehealth and prescription medicine, the bill sponsors are giving Mainers greater peace of mind as we all work together to change the course of the pandemic and improve the health and well-being of all Mainers.”


“Health care needs do not stop in the middle of a pandemic. As a safety net healthcare provider, Planned Parenthood of Northern New England sees everyone who comes to us regardless of ability to pay and during the pandemic, we’ve seen an increase in people losing their jobs and their health insurance and still needing critical care,” said Nicole Clegg, Senior Vice President of Planned Parenthood of Northern New England. “To help meet patient needs and maintain patient and provider safety, last April, we quickly and effectively launched an expanded telehealth program that allows patients to access services with fewer or shorter visits or without needing to visit a health center at all, allowing providers to answer patient questions, manage prescriptions, and help patients address their sexual and reproductive health care needs remotely. Telehealth is safe, secure, and effective and has been a game-changer for our patients. Allowing more patients and providers to use telehealth will strengthen our health care system and make it easier for people to get the care they need when they need it.”


“Making progress in the prevention and reduction of COVID-19 disease is critical to achieving our goals in the fight against cancer,” said Hilary Schneider, Maine Director of Government Relations for the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN). “As such, ACS CAN supports policy actions like those included in LD 1, which require state-regulated health plans to cover COVID-19 screening and testing, allow a 90-day fill of prescription medications and require coverage of telemedicine services.”


“This bill is supportive of public health and the advancement of health equity for people in Maine because it reduces barriers to health care access, particularly for populations already experiencing disparities,” said Rebecca Boulos, executive director of the Maine Public Health Association.


“The American Lung Association in Maine is pleased to support the COVID Bill of Rights legislation introduced by President Jackson and Speaker Fecteau.  As the pandemic continues, this legislation will allow Mainers to put their health first by removing barriers to testing and vaccination for COVID-19 by covering those costs for all Maine residents,” said Lance Boucher, American Lung Association Senior Division Director for State Public Policy. “The Lung Association urges everyone to consider vaccination when it is their turn, and to learn about the benefits of vaccination with science-based information.”

“In order to keep everyone — our students, our educators, our communities — as safe as we can, as safe as possible, we need to keep everyone as safe as we possibly can — providing the necessary testing, care, vaccinations.  It is just common sense,” said Grace Leavitt, President of the Maine Education Association. “We all heard many times during the initial months of this too-long pandemic that we are “in this together.” LD 1 helps ensure that while we are in this together, we will come through this together.”

“Too many working families in Maine know what it’s like to have to go into debt seeking care when they are sick or injured. To recover from this pandemic, every Mainer needs access to COVID-19 testing and proper preventative care regardless of how much money they have,” said Evan LeBrun, Executive Director of Mainers for Working Families. “LD 1 ensures that Maine families have what they need to stay safe from this virus and help get our economy working again.”


“The COVID-19 Patient Bill of Rights (LD 1) is essential legislation that will save lives and help our state to recover from this deadly pandemic. Access to healthcare is a human right. How much money you have and if you have insurance should not determine whether or not you and your family get crucial care, especially in the midst of a public health crisis,” said Adam Zuckerman, Maine People’s Alliance. “Maine has the nation’s worst racial disparity in COVID infection rates, and LD 1 will go a long way to addressing that. Kudos to President Jackson and Speaker Fecteau for their leadership in this crisis and for making the COVID-19 Patient Bill of Rights their top priority.”


“MePA supports LD 1. We endorse the establishment of certain requirements for the protection of health care consumers regarding testing, treatment and immunization for COVID-19. We specifically support Part C of the bill that authorizes the delivery of health care services through telehealth by audio-only telephone to ensure that people who do not have access to broadband can still receive needed mental health and other services,” said Thomas Cooper, President of the Maine Psychological Association in written testimony.


“We are deeply grateful to President Jackson and Speaker Fecteau for their commitment to take the COVID-19 pandemic seriously and working to ensure all Mainers, especially our most vulnerable, have protections and continued access to the care they require to maintain their health and well-being,” said Whitney Parish, Advocacy and Communications Director of Health Equity Alliance, in written testimony.


“We represent the NASW Maine in support of President Jackson’s LD 1 February 12th amendment. Our state and national organization believes it to be essential to add the audio-only specifications to the COVID-19 Patient Bill of Rights. We also advocate for making permanent the telehealth expansion under COVID-19, including removing site and geographic restrictions, enabling the use of audio-only devices and payment parity with in-person payment rates,” said Julie M. Schirmer, LCSW, and Jerry Marx, Ph.D. on behalf of the Maine Chapter of the National Association of Social Workers in written testimony.


“In addition to the telemedicine piece, we are supportive of the policy actions included in LD1 that require all state-regulated health plans to cover COVID-19 testing and vaccination before the deductible is met, with no cost-sharing; require that state-regulated health plans allow a 90-day fill of prescription medications or lift all restrictions on how often a patient can refill prescriptions. For the above reasons, we urge you to support Senate President Jackson’s amended version of LD 1,” said Allyson Perron Drag of the American Heart Association/ Stroke Association in written testimony.


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