AUGUSTA—The Legislature’s Committee Health Coverage, Insurance and Financial Services overwhelmingly endorsed a patient protection bill sponsored by President Troy Jackson, Speaker Sara Gideon and backed by Gov. Janet Mills, in a vote of 10-3 on Thursday.
The bill, LD 1, “An Act to Protect Health Care for Maine Families,” would require insurance companies to include basic patient protections outlined in the Affordable Care Act in health care plans offered in Maine.
“For too many Mainers, health care is something they have to worry about daily, whether it is the cost of care, access to care or quality. The least we can do is make sure the quality of care remains intact should the Affordable Care Act go away,” said President Jackson. “I know we still have a long way to go to improve health care for Maine people. But as someone living with a pre-existing condition, I also know how important this bill is to workers, seniors and families all across the state. I’m glad that the Committee has endorsed this proposal, and I hope that the rest of the Legislature will follow their lead.”
“Our ultimate shared goal is affordable and accessible health care for every Maine family. From the closings of many of our rural hospitals to the outrageous cost of prescription drugs to a crippling opioid epidemic, our problems are real,” said Speaker Sara Gideon. “At the national level, constant changes to the Affordable Care Act continue to be proposed with various federal actions and ongoing lawsuits further complicating the state of healthcare for Americans. All of this creates great uncertainty for Mainers, threatening their confidence that healthcare access and coverage will be there when they need it. This legislation helps to provide one much needed piece of stability.”
In Maine, there are an estimated 230,000 non-elderly adults living with pre-existing conditions. In addition to ensuring no Mainer living with pre-existing conditions is denied health care coverage, the legislation also prohibits charging seniors substantially higher rates due to age; it bans lifetime and annual caps on coverage; it allows young adults up to age 26 to remain on their parents’ insurance, and it requires ten essential health benefits, including ambulance services, prescription drugs and pediatric care. The bill also stipulates that available plans must be presented in an easy-to-read format.
Bethany Beausang, a Senior Policy Advisor to the governor, expressed the administration’s strong support of the bill at the public hearing last week, saying, “We can’t take anything for granted, and we simply cannot go backward … Protections for those with pre-existing conditions was especially precarious prior to the ACA. Insurers were able to limit their exposure to high-cost and high-risk people and to categorically exclude benefits that might attract high-cost applicants.”
LD 1 will receive final language review next week before moving to the floor of the Senate and House for a vote.