Major Organizations Endorse Mills, Gideon & Jackson Bill to Improve Health Insurance for Maine Small Businesses & Self-Employed People

Momentum is growing for legislation sponsored by Governor Janet Mills, House Speaker Sara Gideon, and Senate President Troy Jackson to improve health insurance for Maine small businesses and self-employed individuals. During a public hearing today, several major Maine organizations endorsed The Made for Maine Health Coverage Act, a bill that would make some of the most common medical visits free or less costly, simplify shopping for a plan, leverage federal funds to help make premiums more affordable for small businesses, and put Maine in the driver’s seat to ensure that all Maine people have clear choices for their coverage.

“My Administration is determined to see that more people have access to affordable, high-quality health care and that our health care system is tailored to meet the needs of Maine people and small businesses,” said Governor Janet Mills. “This legislation is a critical step in that effort, and I am glad to see these organizations lend their support as we improve health care in Maine.”

“Access to health care is about access to freedom. I’ve said this over and over again because it’s true, and we know what that means for working people. It means the difference between going to the doctor when you’re sick and putting your health – potentially your life – at risk,” said Senate President Troy Jackson. “While health care remains under attack in Washington and across the country, Maine is moving forward to lower health care costs and get folks covered. When we said we were going to do everything we can to make health care more affordable and more accessible in Maine, we meant it. I’m proud to co-sponsor this bill and will fight to see it become law.”

“Not a single Mainer should be rationing their medication or avoiding a trip to the doctor because they aren’t sure what it will end up costing – every single one of us deserves access to quality, affordable health care. With ongoing uncertainty at the federal level, it’s critical that we craft lasting state policies that ensure stability and predictability for consumers here in Maine,” said House Speaker Sara Gideon. “This legislation will help control out-of-pocket costs, bring stability to the volatile small business marketplace, and make shopping for health insurance simpler and easier. This session we must address these urgent matters, and I look forward to continuing our partnership with Governor Mills to ensure prescription drugs are affordable, healthcare – including reproductive care – is accessible, and opioid recovery services are available throughout the state.”

The bill was endorsed today by Maine Medical Association, Maine Hospital Association, AARP Maine, American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, American Heart Association, Maine Public Health Association, Maine Primary Care Association, Consumers for Affordable Health Care, Alliance for Addiction and Mental Health Services, Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, National Association of Social Workers, and Maine Association of Nonprofits, among others.

“Patients are not only concerned about the cost of their deductible or co-pay, but that concern translates into delaying necessary care which in some situations can negatively impact patient outcomes. This legislation addresses this concern with a no or low out-of-pocket cost for the first three primary care and behavioral health visits. With most deductibles beginning in January, a time of high heating costs and post-holiday budget crunch for many, we believe that this proposal creates an important bridge that will help people continue their care,” said Marge Kilkelly, Policy Program Manager, Maine Primary Care Association.

“The Maine Medical Association strongly supports the concepts contained in LD 2007, especially efforts to emphasize evidence informed preventive care for infants, children and adolescents, as well as women's preventive services. The bill provides a solid framework to potentially reduce costs while also providing opportunities for more affordable offerings for small business and their employees. It also creates a process to restructure and expand insurance options through a state run insurance marketplace,” said Dan Morin, Director of Governmental Affairs and Communications at the Maine Medical Association.

“This important legislation is consumer-friendly and will bring more affordability, efficiency, and clarity to the individual and small group markets. Maine has an opportunity to run its own Marketplace, meaning we would no longer be managing efforts at the whim of any one federal administration, and expanding Maine’s successful reinsurance program to the small group market will help keep premiums lower,” said Lori Parham, State Director for AARP Maine.

“Many cancer patients have difficulty affording their health care needs, comparing health insurance plans and understanding their out-of-pocket expense liability. We believe LD 2007 has the potential to make health coverage more affordable and easier to use and understand for those who purchase coverage on their own or through a small employer,” said Hilary Schneider, Maine Director of Government Relations for the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network.

“The Made for Maine Health Coverage Act prioritizes affordable prevention and primary health care access for underserved communities, stabilizes the market, and broadens coverage for effective clinical preventive health services, depositing direct investments for public health,” said Rebecca Boulos, Executive Director of the Maine Public Health Association.

“This legislation would help stabilize the small group market and rein in premium costs. This legislation would also improve access to behavioral health care for many Mainers with high deductible health plans, as it would cover the first primary care visit and behavioral health visit for free – with no deductible and no cost sharing. Additionally, the second and third primary care and behavioral health visits could have copays but would not be subject to the deductible. We urge the committee to unanimously support LD 2007 in order to stabilize health insurance premiums, increase the number of people enrolled in health insurance plans, increase access to behavioral health services, and improve health outcomes,” said Malory Shaughnessy, Executive Director of the Alliance for Addiction and Mental Health Services.

“Through our HelpLine, we know Mainers are struggling not only to get health coverage, but also to afford the high out-of-pocket costs needed to meet health plan deductibles and cost sharing limits. We also hear from small businesses throughout the state struggling to offer coverage to their employees due to skyrocketing premiums year after year. This bill takes significant steps to make it easier and more affordable for Maine people and our small businesses to get the health coverage and care they need,” said Kate Ende, Policy Director at Consumers for Affordable Health Care.

“The charitable nonprofit sector is one of the largest employers in our state, employing 1 in 6 Maine workers. Like all employers in Maine, nonprofits struggle with the state’s low unemployment rate and offering a benefits package that includes an affordable and quality healthcare plan is a necessity to attract and retain talented people. Unfortunately, we hear from our membership about the lack of affordable small-group health plans on a near-daily basis. We urge the committee to unanimously support LD 2007 to stabilize health insurance premiums for employers in Maine’s small group market,” said Sarah Woodard, Advocacy and Public Affairs Director at the Maine Association of Nonprofits

Read testimony from Commissioner of Health and Human Services Jeanne Lambrew (PDF) and Bureau of Insurance Superintendent Eric Cioppa (PDF).

The bill takes a three-pronged approach to improve private health insurance in two markets: the individual market, which serves people who buy their own insurance instead of getting coverage through work or public programs, and the small group market, which serves small businesses. The proposal would:

  1. provide consumers in the individual and small group markets with relief from high out-of-pocket costs and make it easier to compare plans;
  2. pool insurance plans and premiums for individuals and small businesses, improving stability and affordability; and
  3. tailor coverage education and enrollment efforts to Maine.

The bill does not require any appropriation of state dollars. Read more information about the bill here.

This bill comes after Governor Mills, Speaker Gideon, and Senate President Jackson teamed up last year to enact into law expand Medicaid, which has allowed more than 60,000 Maine people to access life-saving health care.