Governor Mills signs law to strengthen and protect health Care Coverage

By Ramona du Houx

The measure, introduced last January by Senate President Troy Jackson, D-Allagash, and House Speaker Sara Gideon, D-Freeport, requires insurers to include basic patient protections in Maine health care plans, codifying into state law requirements of the Affordable Care Act. 

The law, which was the first legislative bill of this session, LD 1, says that any insurance company "shall, at a minimum, provide coverage that incorporates an essential health benefit" and codifies into state law consumer protections outlined in the Affordable Care Act, often referred to as Obamacare.

“I will not leave critical health care protections for Maine people to the whims of Congress or the Courts. I am proud that our state has taken the important step of strengthening the laws that protect critical coverage for people with pre-existing conditions and other essential health benefits,” said Governor Mills. “From this moment on, Maine people can rest assured that, regardless of whatever happens outside of Maine, they will not be denied coverage here in Maine.”

 Governor Janet Mills kept her promise to act on “day one” of her administration to expand MaineCare under the Affordable Care Act and signed “Executive Order 1” on her first work day. More than 70,000 Mainers are now eligible for MaineCare health insurance under the expansion. As of February 25, 2019, the state has enrolled 7,500 new people under voter-approved Medicaid expansion, since January’s Executive Order.

This new law, LD 1, requires insurance companies to include basic patient protections in Maine health care plans is of major importance.

In Maine, there are an estimated 230,000 non-elderly adults living with pre-existing conditions. In addition to ensuring that no Mainer living with pre-existing conditions is denied health care coverage, LD 1 “An Act to Protect Health Care Coverage for Maine Families,” also prohibits charging seniors substantially higher rates due to age; bans lifetime and annual caps on coverage, allows young adults up to age 26 to remain on their parents’ insurance, and requires ten essential health benefits, such as ambulance services, prescription drugs and pediatric care.

“For me, this bill has always been personal. As someone who has a preexisting condition and who has gone without health insurance, I understand what threats to patient protections mean for families. People with preexisting conditions cannot afford for things to go back to the way they were,” said President Troy Jackson, D-Allagash. “While we still have a long way to go to make health care more affordable and more accessible for everyone, I hope workers and parents can all breathe a sigh of relief knowing lawmakers in Maine have their backs.”

The bill had strong bipartisan majorities in both the House and Senate.

“From the closings of many of our rural hospitals to the outrageous cost of prescription drugs and insurance premiums, to a crippling opioid epidemic, the health care problems Mainers are facing right now are real and they are daunting,” said Speaker Gideon, D-Freeport. “With this bill, we take an important first step toward addressing these issues and making permanent change that will benefit all Mainers.”