By Rep. Bruce MacDonald
August 23, 2012
I know many people are becoming more and more aware of the impacts that cuts to health care services and loosening of restrictions on big health insurance companies can have on all of us. Whether we experience this by our insurance premiums going up, or by losing our health care coverage completely, or as a health care professional who loses a job, or as an individual who loses convenient access to care, these issues are always interrelated.
The health insurance rate hike Republicans passed last year has resulted in skyrocketing insurance rates throughout rural Maine for small business owners and for all but the youngest of adult Mainers. An independent survey from Gorman Actuarial shows that older Mainers and small businesses in rural areas are now paying more for insurance, while younger, healthier Mainers in urban areas are being offered cheap policies as a result of the changes to the law. The new cheap polices also offer far less actual health care coverage and there is no evidence that young healthy Mainers in southern Maine will buy them.
I, along with all my colleagues, supported the purchasing of health insurance across state lines and other healthcare reforms that actually focused on bringing real health care at an affordable price to more Mainers. Unfortunately, the law passed by Republicans was focused on rewarding the big insurance companies at the expense of most Mainers.
The new law allows insurance companies to force people to travel long distances to receive care at big, urban hospitals instead of being allowed to go to your local hospital or doctor. The new law also made it easier for insurance companies to increase health insurance rates without approval and shifted the cost of health care to other private insurance holders through a tax on every private insurance policy.
I also want to be clear that when I say insurance premiums are skyrocketing in “rural Maine” I am not only talking about Northern and Downeast Maine. I am talking about small businesses in Lincoln and Sagadahoc counties and as far south as Sanford seeing their insurance rates going up by 60 percent or more.
The Republican insurance rate hike (Public Law 90) allows insurance companies selling individual policies to set rates based on age at up to five times higher than the lowest rate. The law sets no limits on rate changes depending on where you live, or what kind of job you have. The new law is especially harmful in a state with the oldest population in the country and where 90 percent of our businesses have fewer than 20 employees.
I want health care to be accessible to you and affordable. I also want your health insurance to actually cover your health care. Every family deserves a family doctor – not just the ones who can pay top dollar for it. Some of the new insurance plans Republicans are hailing don’t even cover the cost of delivering a baby! They ask you to pay more out of your pocket for less care. What is the point of having insurance if it isn’t there for you when you need it most?
The fact is the Republican health insurance rate hike has made it harder to live and work in Maine, especially in rural areas, especially for our many small businesses and the families they support. I will continue to work with all willing parties to work towards a health care system that is affordable and delivers high quality health care to people close to home.
Rep. Bruce MacDonald, D-Boothbay, represents Arrowsic, Boothbay, Boothbay Harbor, Georgetown, Southport and Westport Island.