AUGUSTA – Senate President Troy Jackson of Allagash and House Speaker Ryan Fecteau of Biddeford testified today in favor of LD 1, “An Act to Establish the COVID-19 Patients Bill of Rights” at a public hearing before the Legislature’s Health Coverage, Insurance and Financial Services Committee. The proposal removes barriers to COVID-19 screening, testing and immunization as well as other health services so Mainers can keep their families and loved ones safe and healthy during this crisis.
“For more than 11 months, Mainers have hunkered down, worn their masks and done everything they can to keep their families and loved ones safe, all while experiencing extraordinary hardship. Now that we have two COVID-19 vaccines approved, the end is in sight and Mainers are anxiously waiting to get vaccinated and get their lives back,” said President Jackson. “The COVID-19 Patient Bill of Rights will bring us closer to a world where we can hug our loved ones, a world where we can gather with friends in celebration or in sorrow and a world where we can simply be together in-person again. It marks the first step towards rebuilding our state and economy.”
The proposal would require state-regulated health insurance companies to cover COVID-19 screening, testing and immunization at no cost to the patient. It also prevents health care providers from charging patients any sort of fee-related to these types of services.
“During this pandemic, countless families are facing hardships they never could have imagined a year ago. This bill protects families who are on the edge by prioritizing their health, along with all Maine communities — so our state can bounce back as quickly as possible, leaving nobody behind,” said Speaker Fecteau. “I hope today that it is clear that our priority will be Maine’s recovery from COVID-19, both for our people and our economy.”
Although uninsured Mainers should be able to access testing and vaccination at no cost, the amended proposal includes language to ensure that if an uninsured Mainer is at a testing site that doesn’t have a contract with the Department of Health and Human Services:
- they are made aware of the cost ahead of time;
- they are made aware of alternative sites where they can get tested for free;
- and they are provided with the MaineCare waiver to get reimbursed for testing if they choose to get tested at a site without a DHHS contract.
Other key rights established in LD 1 include access to audio-only telehealth for Mainers without the technology to video chat or reliable, high-speed internet access, and the ability to fill extended prescriptions during a state of emergency. ConnectME estimates that 83,000 Mainers lack access to sufficient high-speed reliable internet. Allowing for audio-only telehealth services would at least help close the gap and ensure these Mainers have the same access to health care.
LD 1 will undergo additional work sessions in the Legislature’s HCIFS Committee.