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  • Bill to increase women’s access to health care becomes law in Maine with LePage's inaction

    Measure would improve economic stability for Maine families

      A bill to expand access to essential health care services for women became law Sunday if the governor does not sign or veto it before then.

    LD 319, An Act To Strengthen the Economic Stability of Qualified Maine Citizens by Expanding Coverage of Reproductive Health Care and Family Services, provides uninsured and underinsured low-income women access to important preventative services such as cancer screenings, annual exams, Pap tests, birth control and STD testing. The measure empowers women to make decisions about starting a family and prevents unintended pregnancy.

    “This bill is about economic security for women,” said Rep. Jay McCreight, D-Harpswell, the sponsor of the legislation. “For many women, family planning clinics are the only accessible sources of health care. This measure will help women get the critical care they need, and it will also lower health care costs over the long run, which will save taxpayers money.” 

    Under the measure, the federal government would pay $9 for each dollar of state funds that goes toward the effort.  Maine would join the 32 states that have already seen benefits by providing health care services to low-income women. The bill would provide publicly funded preventative health care to adults up to 209 percent of the federal poverty level, approximately $23,000 for a household of one.

    One-third of all American women are living very close to the poverty line, earning less than $47,000 per year for a family of four. Thousands of Maine women and the children who depend on them are one unexpected expense away from financial collapse.

    The first-year savings to Maine are conservatively estimated at $100,000 and, by the third year, the state would save nearly $2 million.

    Thirty other states have opted in to the Medicaid family planning option proposed in LD 319, many of them for more than a decade. Every state that has assessed the program has seen a net savings in Medicaid costs.

    The bill does not cover abortion services. Federal law prohibits these funds being used for abortion services.

    A similar bill passed the Legislature in 2014 but did not survive a veto from the governor.

    The bill, which the Legislature passed on June 30, would be among the measures that are becoming law without the governor’s signature. The governor has 10 days, not including Sundays, to sign or veto a bill. If he does not take either of those actions, the bill becomes law if the Legislature has not finally adjourned.

    The bill goes into effect 90 days after the Legislature finally adjourns. The Legislature will be in session on July 16 to address any vetoes issued by the governor as prescribed by the Maine Constitution.

    McCreight, a member of the Legislature’s Judiciary Committee and Marine Resources Committee, is serving her first in the Maine House and represents Harpswell, West Bath and part of Brunswick.