Maine has passed significant health insurance reform allowing for more interstate purchasing and insurance subsidies for some citizens. Amendments to the bill include measures to keep rates from rising in rural areas and will ensure that people do not have to travel long distances for health care. The measure passed the state Senate 24-10 and the Governor signed the bill yesterday.
Under the law, citizens with chronic illnesses and pre-existing conditions will be eligible for insurance subsidies. The subsidies will be paid for by Maine taxpayers through a tax on insurance premiums for all other policyholders. Maine residents and businesses will also be able to purchase individual policies from surrounding states starting in 2014. Small businesses with fewer than 50 employees will be able to group together to purchase insurance policies.
Maine already has some of the highest health care costs in the nation, but the Governor and supporters of the bill claim that the $4 tax on premiums will allow the state to stave off cost increases and will end up saving individuals more money on their health insurance. However, the bill also gives insurance companies more latitude in how they charge individuals for premiums leading opponents of the bill to question exactly how much policyholders will save.
“Republicans have clearly demonstrated that health care reform is important. More importantly, Republicans have shown that Mainers come first. More choice and competition will drive down the high costs of insurance premiums making coverage more affordable to everyone,” said Governor LePage.