Posted: June 17, 2013 | Front Page, Senator Goodall, Senator Gratwick, Senator Jackson, Senators

Measures prevent insurance companies from discriminating against rural Mainers, raising rates without review

AUGUSTA- Earlier today, the Senate voted in favor of two bills to correct unfair health insurance rates under PL 90, the rate-hike law, passed by the Republican-led legislature in 2012.

One bill would prevent health insurance companies from charging increased rates to rural Mainers based solely on geography, and the second prevents companies from raising rates without review by the Bureau of Insurance.

“Above all, when determining access to and affordability of health care, it’s a matter of fairness and equality,” said Senator Geoff Gratwick of Bangor. “We are not two Maines, we are one Maine and a healthy population requires all of us to be in this together.”

According to research by Consumers for Affordable Healthcare, the rate-hike law, also known as PL 90, has increased healthcare costs for most Maine people and small businesses.

In a vote of 22 -13, LD 161, “An Act To Prohibit a Health Insurance Carrier from Establishing a Separate Premium Rate Based on Geographic Area,” passed with bipartisan support. The measure requires health insurance companies to use one geographic area when establishing rates for individual and small group health plans.

Currently, under the “rate hike law,” health insurance companies are allowed to use geographic area as one criteria when determining health insurance rates, thereby charging Mainers living in rural Maine more than those living in urban centers.  As permitted by the Federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, the state of Maine is authorized to establish one or more uniform geographic rating areas for determining rates. This bill would create a single geographic area incorporating the entire State of Maine.

The second bill, LD 225, “An Act To Restore Consumer Rate Review for Health Insurance Plans in the Individual and Small Group Markets,“ would once again require health insurance companies to file individual plans with the Superintendent of the Maine Bureau of Insurance and receive prior approval before raising health insurance rates.

“We should not put rate hikes on autopilot. That is not transparent and it’s not in the best interest of Maine people,” said Senate Majority Leader Seth Goodall of Richmond. “We should not be afraid of allowing transparency.”

The measure was approved in a party line vote of 20-15.

“The party of ‘no taxes’ voted for insurance companies to have free reign to tax consumers. The bottom line is that we need to have fairness and transparency with our health insurance,” said Assistant Senate Majority Leader Troy Jackson of Allagash. “Today, many of us rejected the Republican plan and listened to the people back home by voting for fairness and correcting the error made last year.”

Both measures face further votes in the House and the Senate.