Democrats muzzled despite efforts to work together
AUGUSTA – The Insurance and Financial Services Committee voted to advance significant repeals of Maine’s health care protections today during a work session on bill LD 1333, “An Act To Modify Rating Practices for Individual and Small Group Health Plans and To Encourage Value-based Purchasing of Health Care Services.“ Republican lawmakers introduced a 29-page amendment with no public hearing or consideration for the new elements of the bill prior to the vote on the measure.
“This is unprecedented. I’ve been a committee chair since 1982,” said Senator Joseph Brannigan (D-Portland), the ranking Democrat on the committee. “And I’ve never seen anything ramrodded through committee without facts, discussion, and public input. We were handed more than three inches of paper, including five year old data from another state. We had no time to read it—never mind time to understand the impact this will have on people’s lives.”
Components of the amendment include: repealing the guaranteed issue, which would allow denial of coverage to people with a pre-existing condition, broadening community rating bands, allowing for purchases of insurance across state lines, eliminating the state health plan, and creat ing a high risk pool.
“From what we do know, this proposal hurts small businesses, rural Mainers, the chronically ill and anyone over 50 who is not yet eligible for Medicare,” said Rep. Sharon Treat (D- Hallowell) . “We need to see current data because if the numbers don’t add up this will destabilize the insurance market and hurt small businesses.”
Democratic committee members repeatedly asked for additional information, clarification, input from the superintendent of insurance, and an opportunity to read the amendments. After requests were rejected, Democrats moved to table the measure pending additional information from the Bureau of Insurance and committee discussion. The motion failed in a vote along partisan lines.
“Past procedure has always been to seek areas of agreement and develop bipartisan policy where and when possible,” said Rep.Treat. “It appears that the majority party on the committee had no interest in anything except a bill they developed in secret in partnership with the insurance industry.”