AUGUSTA, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- The fight over health insurance reform will again take center stage in Augusta on Tuesday, as Democrats try to change a Republican plan to overhaul the state's health insurance regulations.
The Republican plan, L.D. 1333, passed in the House last week, despite protests from Democrats that it was being pushed through too fast. Today Democrats called a press conference to ask Republicans to "slow down" the legislative process. Democrats have created the various consumer protections currently in Maine health insurance laws over the past fifteen years and don't want them changed. But Republicans say it's those same rules that have made Maine one of the most expensive places in the country to buy health insurance. But Democrats say the reform plan goes too far - and claim it will actually force most Maine people to pay more for their insurance, and would particularly hit those in rural areas. Republicans, however, don't agree. They say insurance premiums should go down for just about everyone, because the plan will increase competition and allow more young people to afford insurance.
Democrats had their arguments bolstered by a physician from Bethel, Dr. Richard DeCarolis, who said his reading of the proposal shows it will make insurance more costly, meaning a larger number of people will choose to go without. He also says one provision of the plan would let insurance companies require customers to travel longer distances for specialists and care. But insurance agent Joel Allumbaugh, president of the Maine Association of Health Underwriters, says the Legislature already created a similar requirement for state employees six years ago. He says it has worked well for their insurance and has not increased costs. He argues the overall plan will bring costs down, and points to experience in the state of Idaho, which was used as a model for part of Maine's plan.
The GOP bill is scheduled for another vote in the House on Tuesday, and an initial Senate vote on Wednesday.