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For Immediate Release

Date: 06/01/11

Plan to study health care costs passes House, moves to Senate

AUGUSTA - The Maine House today gave unanimous final approval to a joint order that seeks to create a legislative committee to examine ways to control the cost of health care in the state. The measure, HP 597, now goes to the Senate.

Rep. Les Fossel (R-Alna), who sponsored the legislation, said Maine has the highest per capita health care cost in the nation at more than $7,000. "The cost is growing at 7.8 percent a year, the fastest pace in the country," he said. "Health care absorbs almost 24 percent of Maine's economy - the highest in America. Unless we take serious measures to get a handle on these costs, they will ultimately overwhelm us."

Maine's rapidly rising spending on health care, he added, is squeezing out funds for other critical needs, including schools, roads and higher education.

Under the joint order, the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House would appoint a bipartisan panel of 13 legislators to review current health care costs in the state, including, but not limited to, the costs for health care delivery. Committee members would determine opportunities to reduce overall health care costs and report their findings and recommendations, including proposed legislation by next December 7 to the Second Regular Session of the 125th Legislature.

In carrying out its duties, the Committee would consult with relevant state agencies, health insurance companies, hospitals, health care providers, and business and labor representatives.

Preference for appointments to the Committee would go to legislators serving on the Health and Human Services Committee, the Insurance and Financial Services Committee and the Committee on Appropriations and Financial Affairs.

"Maine Republicans have taken important steps to create a more business-friendly environment and a more competitive health insurance system," Rep. Fossel noted. "Unless we can bring health care expenses under control, however, we're fighting an uphill battle. As an employer who pays the full cost of health insurance for my employees and their families, and who had to deal with a 34 percent increase in renewal premiums, I am extremely motivated to bring costs under control to benefit all Mainers."

Rep. Fossel, who serves on the Health and Human Services Committee, is already a member of the Advisory Council on Health Systems Development. He served last year on the Joint Select Committee on Health Care Reform Opportunities and Implementation, which examined Maine's integration with the Affordable Care Act (ACA), commonly known as "ObamaCare."

"We have committees on everything except the most important thing - getting our health care costs in line with the national norms, if not lower. The solution is not socialized medicine, such as the ACA," Rep. Fossel said. "I'm not a big fan of the federal law because it does nothing to control the relentless increase in health care costs. Countries with the best health care systems also have private insurance. The Swiss have a completely private system at half our cost, and they live five years longer than we do." ###

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