New laws from Sen. Carney to improve family health care coverage take effect this month

Posted: August 18, 2022 | Senator Carney

AUGUSTA — New laws sponsored by Sen. Anne Carney, D-Cape Elizabeth, that expand access to health care for Maine children and mothers took effect on Monday, Aug. 8. Sen. Carney’s three bills made more Maine children eligible for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), required private health insurance companies to cover postpartum care and funded a full year of postpartum care for MaineCare patients.

“In my district, I hear from families and moms that health care is too costly – or simply unavailable,” said Sen. Carney. “That’s why I took their priorities and worked hard on several laws that expand access to health care and make it more affordable. More Maine kids and young adults are eligible for the Children’s Health Insurance Program. New moms can get comprehensive postpartum care through their private insurance. MaineCare recipients can get a full year of postpartum care, too. These laws will improve the health and quality of life for Mainers, especially new moms while they are going through a particularly vulnerable period in their lives. High quality, affordable health care allows for healthy communities and families to grow. It will also draw more families and younger workers to our communities.”

In 2020, 5.6 percent of Maine youth, aged newborn to 19, lacked health insurance. Going without health insurance leads to worse health outcomes and often results in large fiscal burdens when the uninsured do seek medical care at a hospital. Sen. Carney’s law to change the eligibility of Mainers for CHIP, or Cub Care, made 40,000 Maine children and young adults eligible. The law raised the maximum eligibility level for family income from 200 percent of the Federal Poverty Level to 300 percent of the Federal Poverty Level. It eliminated the three-month waiting period for enrollment after the loss of employer-based coverage. It expanded coverage to include 19- and 20-year-olds. Finally, it eliminated some premium payments.

Sen. Carney’s first of two postpartum laws ensures that maternity benefits provided by private health insurers include coverage for 12 months of postpartum care. This care must meet the latest recommendations from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG). These recommendations are derived from ACOG’s “Optimizing Postpartum Care.” It adopts a new framework for postpartum care as an ongoing process, rather than a single encounter at six weeks post-birth. It also requires that services and support be tailored to the patient’s individual needs. The law applies to both individual and groups contracts that are issued by insurers and health maintenance organizations. One of Sen. Carney’s constituents, Michelle Boyer, first brought the idea for this bill to the Senator, and they both championed its passage into law. Coverage will begin starting Jan. 1, 2023.

Senator Carney’s other postpartum law made use of newly available federal funds so that MaineCare patients could receive a full twelve months of coverage after delivery, instead of just 8 weeks. Extending this coverage period will reduce the risk of maternal mortality. The coverage can also be used for smoking cessation and substance use disorder treatment, which will improve the health of both the infant and the new mother.

All non-emergency laws take effect 90 days after the Legislature adjourns sine die unless otherwise specified. 

Other laws supported by Sen. Carney that took effect this year include measures to combat high-energy prices, improve access to prescription drugs, promote economic opportunity and support working families, seniors and veterans.