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For Immediate Release

Date: 05/10/11

House GOP Leaders Decry 'Venomous' Attacks on Health Insurance Bill

AUGUSTA - House Republican leaders said today they are disturbed by the intense criticism of the health insurance reform bill now moving through the Legislature. They are particularly troubled by the extent of the scare tactics and outright falsehoods appearing in newspapers around the state.

"To say that this bill has been misrepresented is a gross understatement," said Rep. Phil Curtis (R-Madison), leader of the House Republicans. "Never before have I seen this level of distortion surrounding a major policy issue. This bill, LD 1333, is excellent legislation that addresses a desperate need in our state for more affordable health insurance. It is hard to fathom the venomous attacks that have been launched against it."

Rep. Andre Cushing (R-Hampden), the assistant House GOP leader, said he was shocked by false information promulgated by the American Cancer Society. On May 2, the ACS issued an "advocacy action alert" stating that LD 1333 "would deny coverage for cancer survivors due to pre-existing conditions."

"That statement is false, and I was disappointed to see it distributed by e-mail across the state," said Rep. Cushing. "The American Cancer Society, whether deliberately or not, touched off a panic among cancer survivors and their families based on a misrepresentation of the bill. Under LD 1333, no one can be denied health insurance and no one can be kicked off a plan because they get sick or have pre-existing conditions. The bill does not repeal guaranteed issue or guaranteed renewability. No one will be charged higher rates for having cancer or surviving cancer."

LD 1333 seeks to lower our state's expensive health insurance costs through a series of changes. Mainers buying individual insurance (not through an employer) will be able to purchase policies from companies based in New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut. Companies can band together to pool employees in larger groups to expand the risk base to obtain better rates.

Individuals with chronic illnesses will be able to purchase coverage for the same price as everyone else, thanks to a subsidy from the Guaranteed Access Plan, which will be funded by $4 monthly fees on private insurance policies. Expanded community rating bands will price insurance policies more reasonably for younger Mainers, thereby expanding the pool and keeping costs lower across the board.

"The basic idea is to generate increased competition," said Rep. Cushing. "That will lower rates and bring on a broader range of policies to meet a variety of business and personal budgets. It would replace our one-size-fits-none approach with more choices. Changes to our community rating laws will lower prices for younger people, not raise them for older people.

"The people of Maine have been asking for affordable insurance for years," he said. "We have come up with a plan that has been used successfully in dozens of other states, all of which have lower premiums. Yet critics in the media and elsewhere have absurdly portrayed this bill as an assault on Mainers.

"It's hard to accept their criticism as genuine," he added. "They watched for years as the Legislature did nothing to properly deal with the affordability crisis. Now that we are finally taking commonsense steps to restore Maine to normalcy, they come out of the woodwork. But because they can't attack the bill on its merits, they resort to falsehoods and deception. It's a very sad spectacle." ###

Jay Finegan
Maine House Republicans
Tel: (207) 287-1445