A measure that expands access to quality insurance coverage to those who do not speak English as their first language received a public hearing yesterday afternoon in the Insurance and Financial Services Committee.
The bill, LD 621, “An Act To Improve Access to Insurance Coverage for Persons for Whom English Is a Second Language,” permits insurance companies to provide insurance policies and any explanatory or advertising material in a language other than English.
“Far too many Mainers are unable to understand or are intimidated by insurance documents and insurance concepts due to a lack of English comprehension, ” said Senator Anne Haskell of Portland, the sponsor of the measure. “Insurance companies simply want to provide good service to their customers and ensure that they are not unintentionally misleading their customers.”
According to the latest census data, 87 languages are spoken in Maine. Economist, Charles Lawton recently reported that over the past decade and a half almost all of the population growth in Maine can be attributed to those who identify as “non-white.”
The bill is modeled on legislation and rule-making that has been adopted in 18 other states around the country. The bill also ensures that in the event of a dispute, the English language version would control the resolution of the dispute or complaint.
“Given the increasingly ethnically and linguistically diverse state that we live in, I believe it would be wise for our state to adjust to these new demographic realities and help those with limited English proficiency integrate and contribute to our economy,” added Senator Haskell. “We should be doing everything in our power to encourage new Mainers to sign up for insurance coverage that can protect their families and property from the unexpected.”
The Insurance and Financial Affairs Committee will be holding a work session on LD 621, “An Act To Improve Access to Insurance Coverage for Persons for Whom English Is a Second Language,” in the coming weeks.