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Mills Proposes Bill She Says Will Improve Health Insurance And Cut Costs

Steve Mistler
Maine Public
Maine Public Broadcasting Gov. Janet Mills unveils legislation she says will improve health insurance for Mainers, at a State House news conference Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2020.

Maine Gov. Janet Mills and Democratic legislative leaders unveiled a new bill at the State House Wednesday that they say is aimed at improving health insurance in the individual and small group markets. They say the bill is designed to reduce out of pocket costs, stabilize premiums, and move closer to a state-run marketplace.

"Today we take another step forward in improving Maine's health care system for our people, for our small businesses as well. All without any state tax dollars," Mills said. "And we expect full bipartisan support for this legislation." It's called the Made for Maine Health Coverage Act, and co-sponsor Maine Senate President Troy Jackson says one of the ways it will reduce costs is by requiring insurance companies to cover patients' first primary and behavioral health care visits for free.

"It may not sound like much, but depending on your copays, that could be a tank of oil that many people struggle with."

Mills says the goal is to get people in the door to the doctor's office before health issues become emergencies. Mills says the act would require insurers to cover the full cost of patients' first primary care and behavioral health visits. The bill also seeks to prevent premium increases by merging the individual and small group markets together.

"Creating a combined larger pool, a larger and more stable pool of covered lives, of enrollees, to stem increasing costs."

The state would also apply Maine's reinsurance program to this combined pool. It's a program that was revived last year in the individual market after being used briefly from 2012 to 2013, when it was credited with preventing double digit premium hikes.

A third component of the bill would move Maine toward a state-run marketplace, a priority that Mills announced last summer.

She says no appropriation of state tax dollars would be needed to enact the provisions of the bill, and she expects bipartisan support.

Updated 4:52 p.m. Jan 8, 2020