Posted: April 17, 2014 | Senator Craven, Senator Jackson

Private Option provision moves forward


AUGUSTA— In a 19-14 vote, the Senate approved an amended version of a bill to increase access to health care with a private option component modeled after New Hampshire’s program.

“I will support any reasonable compromise that brings health care to more Maine people,” said Senate Majority Leader Troy Jackson of Allagash, who sponsored his own expansion bill, LD 1640. “If we can save even one life with this compromise, to me, it’s worth it.”

The amendment to the bill, LD 1578, would require federal funds to purchase private health insurance through the federal health insurance exchange created through the Affordable Care Act.  It is modeled after New Hampshire’s bipartisan health protection program proposed by New Hampshire Senate members and passed by their full legislature.

Under Speaker Mark Eves’ amended bill, the state would have to apply for a waiver by December 1 to use the federal funds for the private option for tens of thousands of low income adults.  During the waiver application period, the state would accept federal funds to provide bridge coverage until the private option is approved.  The federal government has approved a waiver for Arkansas’ private option and is expected to do so for New Hampshire.

If a waiver is not approved by July 1, 2015, coverage ends 90 days thereafter in order to provide notice to recipients.

“Approving this amended compromise means hard-working Mainers could afford to purchase insurance through the Affordable Care Act marketplace,” said Senator Margaret Craven of Lewiston, the Senate Chair of the Health and Human Services Committee. “No matter how we get there, the end result is the same: increased access to health care for Maine people.”

Last month, New Hampshire became the 27th state, including the District of Columbia, to accept expansion.  Maine is now the only state in New England that has not accepted health care expansion.

The amended measure faces further votes in the House.