“This law has done more harm than good and it should be repealed by the next legislature. The law has proven to be anti-small business, anti-jobs as well as anti-rural Maine,” said Rep. Sharon Treat, D-Hallowell.
A new report, “Few Winners, Many Losers: Evaluating Key Provisions of Maine New Health Insurance Law to Date,” released by Consumers for Affordable Health Care today shows that health insurance premiums have risen for most Maine consumers over the age of 50 and small businesses because of Republican new health care law.
“CAHC’s findings confirm that the sweeping changes the Legislature made in 2011 to Maine’s fundamental health insurance consumer protection statutes have raised health insurance costs for Maine consumers and small businesses to pad insurance company profits. Premiums have increased for more than half of Anthem’s Maine customers, including over 90 percent of those between ages 50 and 59 and 100 percent of those age 60 and older. Rates have also increased for more than 90 percent of Maine small businesses.”
Key Democratic state lawmakers say the Republican insurance deregulation or the “rate hike law” passed last year must be repealed in light of the new independent report showing its devastating impact on small businesses and Mainers over age 50, especially in rural areas of the state.
Rep.Treat, led the opposition to the bill when it was forced through in a bitter party-line vote in 2011, and has filed a bill request to repeal the law. “This independent report is proof that the law is part of a race to the bottom in health care – worse health insurance for higher costs. It picks a few winners and many losers,” she said.
For Ken Shweikert, his 78% quoted increase was just too much.
“At The Grasshopper Shop in Ellsworth our premium went from $900 a month to over $1600 month” said Shweikert, the former owner and a member of the Maine Small Business Coalition. “Needless to say, we canceled the policy. We now have individual policies with $15,000 deductibles.”
For Walter Briggs, who owns a marketing firm in Bath with five employees, a premium hike of 67 percent meant that he had to cut coverage, let one employee go and was prevented from keeping others on full time. Due to his increased deductible, last year his family paid $10,000 in health care costs in addition to their skyrocketing premiums.
“Briggs Advertising was established in 1987, and for many years we have paid 100% of employees’ coverage and 50% for their families. Each year, we pay more for less coverage,” said Briggs. “I hate hate hate hate it. Health care should be a human right.”
Last year, more than 1,200 small business owners took action through the Maine Small Business Coalition and asked their legislators to vote against the rate hike bill. It passed on a mostly party-line vote.
The across-the-board rate hikes for small businesses are occurring this year despite the fact that the law also created a new $22 million-per-year tax on Mainers with insurance, with the revenue being paid to insurance companies.
The CHAC report was based on insurance company filings with the Maine Bureau of Insurance and found that Maine’s new health insurance law, PL 90, resulted in the following:
- Higher premiums for the majority (54 percent) of individual policyholders, and 91 percent ages 55-59 and 100 percent ages 60+ saw increases.
- Increases in premiums for 4,706 small businesses compared to decreases for 532 small businesses. Seventy seven percent of the businesses who received a decrease are concentrated in Cumberland and York counties and that only accounts for a little over 15 percent of the businesses in those counties. The areas with the most increases were in the counties of Aroostook, Penobscot, Piscataquis, Knox, Hancock, Lincoln, Waldo, and Washington.
- Higher premiums for the overwhelming majority (90 percent) of small business policyholders especially those with older workers or in rural areas.
- Worse product choices in the individual market.
- Higher taxes ($22 million) on all insured individuals in Maine for a reinsurance program that supported higher profits to the state’s largest insurance company for its individual product ($1.8 million)
- Weaker consumer protections to allow insurance companies to hike rates up to 10 percent without requiring prior review
- Democrats strongly opposed the law because it allows insurance companies to charge significantly higher rates based on geography, age, and where they work.
“If you are a 55 year-old retiree who no longer has company health insurance and isn’t eligible yet for Medicare, you may be charged five hundred percent more than someone in their 20s because of this new law,” said Rep. Adam Goode, D-Bangor, who serves on the Insurance and Financial Services Committee. “Younger Mainers may be paying less, but it’s not for quality care. Some policies won’t even cover maternity costs.”
The law was passed with little or no input from Democrats or analysis from the Maine Bureau of Insurance.
“We opposed the law from day one,” said Sen. Joe Brannigan, D-Portland, who also serves on the IFS committee. “It is unfortunate that so many people have been hurt as a result of ramrodding a bill through that was not properly considered and written in a back room with insurance company lobbyists.”