By Rep. Ken Theriault, D-Madawaska.
August 6, 2012
We’ve heard and read a lot of opinions about health care over the past few months, but I think we all can agree that every family deserves a family doctor. Unfortunately, for many Maine families and small businesses in rural parts of the state like Madawaska, the cost of going to the doctor or filling a prescription has gotten more expensive in the past two years.
Many families are choosing between buying groceries or filing a prescription, especially if you are between the ages of 50-64, when folks are not yet eligible for Medicare. Part of the reason for the rate increase is a new law passed by my Republican colleagues in the legislature. The law allows insurance companies to charge more to this group. In some cases, they can charge up to five times as much to individuals depending on their age.
The law also puts no limits on how much an insurer can charge based on where you live, or on what kind of job you have. Worse, it lets insurers hike rates up to 10 percent without prior review or approval from regulators. Ten percent may not seem like a lot to an insurance company but it adds up for Maine families that are trying to make ends meet.
While the new law has offered cheaper health insurance to younger, healthier Mainers in urban areas, like Portland and Scarborough, older Mainers and individuals and small businesses in rural areas like ours are paying the price.
Since the new health insurance law passed small businesses in rural Maine report seeing their health insurance costs go up more than sixty percent. In Aroostook, Hancock, and Washington counties, insurance premiums have risen more than 60 or 70 percent for some businesses, especially for those with older employees.
The new law is especially harmful in a state with the oldest population and where 90 percent of our businesses have less than 20 employees.
The fact is the Republican insurance overhaul has made it harder to live and work in Maine, especially in rural areas. It picks winners and losers. The new law has led to higher out of pocket costs for less care. What is the point of having insurance if it isn’t there for you when you need it most?
We should be looking to make health care more affordable for more people, not padding the pockets of big insurance companies.
Rep. Ken Theriault is serving his third term in the State Legislature. He represents District 2, including Frenchville, Madawaska, New Canada, Perham, Portage Lake, St. Agatha, Stockholm and Westmanland, plus the unorganized territory of Square Lake.