Maine 2011 health insurance law praised in national debate

Maine's role in health care reform

AUGUSTA, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- Maine could become a key to helping Congress agree on a new health insurance law.

Republicans in Congress are still trying to come up with a replacement or re-write of ObamaCare, the Affordable Care Act. As those discussions have unfolded, covering pre-existing conditions - which can sometimes be expensive - is a critical piece of that package. That's where Maine comes in.

Starting with Vice President Mike Pence on Meet The Press Sunday, Republicans are saying a Maine law passed in 2011 is providing the idea to deal with some of those challenges.

Maine passed a major health insurance law that year, which included a special "high-risk pool" to provide insurance for several thousand people who had the highest costs for care. That portion of the law required small monthly payments from all insurance policyholders, as a form of subsidy.

High-risk people continued to pay normal rates for their policies, but they were put into a "pool" where insurance companies shared the subsidy funds and the coverage. The law was superseded by the Affordable Care Act in 2013, but Republicans say, while it lasted, the law significantly reduced costs and made health insurance more affordable for many people.

"That's something that has been pushed by this administration and the Governor. It works," said Adrienne Bennett, press secretary for Gov. Paul LePage. "All we wanted as an administration is for it to be implemented so people can benefit from it so premiums can be lowered."

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Opposition groups say the overall 2011 Maine law also caused some rates to go up, and say they have lots of questions about using it as a national model.

"Like everything, the devil's always in the details," said Steve Butterfield of Consumers for Affordable Health Care. "So if it's insufficiently funded, if it's attached to other changes, that will blow up the individual insurance market overall and lead to 24 million people losing coverage - again, this doesn't feel like a worthwhile tradeoff."

The LePage administration has lobbied for the Maine risk pool idea with the Trump administration. And Sen. Susan Collins on Monday told NEWS CENTER she brought the Maine plan to the attention of congressional negotiators after meeting with Maine's insurance superintendent.

© 2017 WCSH-TV


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