Reckless health care overhaul jacks up rates, limits access to care

Posted: May 07, 2011 | Weekly Radio Address

Weekly Radio Address – Rep. Beck – May 7th, 2011

Good morning, I’m Rep. Henry Beck from Waterville.

Thank you for tuning in.

This week Republican lawmakers ramrodded a proposal to overhaul Maine’s health insurance protections through the Maine House. Their proposal will drive up costs for people living in rural areas and Mainers over age 48.

Democrats believe working to lower the cost of health care for Maine people with market reforms, while increasing quality and accessibility, is and should be our top priority. How to get there is what fuels the health insurance debate.

The Republican plan was recklessly rushed through the legislature. It pits Maine people against each other. The young verses the old, the north verses the south. It allows the insurance industry to shift the cost of health care from one group of Maine people to another with no limits and little protection.

According to the Bureau of Insurance analysis of a similar but LESS DRASTIC plan, this bill will cause health care rates in rural Maine to go up at the very least by 20 percent. Maine people living in the North will experience AT LEAST a 19 percent rate increase. Maine people living in Down East will experience AT LEAST a 22 percent rate increase.

In addition to making health care more expensive for rural Mainers, the package also repeals rules that limit how far an insurance company can ask policyholders to travel to get care in network. Health care access in rural communities and your local doctors would be affected by the repeal of these protections.

The overhaul will allow insurance companies to charge a Mainer five times more than their neighbor for insurance based on their age alone. And most troubling, there will be no limits on rate changes depending on where you live, or what kind of job you have.

The bill also creates a segregated reinsurance pool run almost completely by insurance companies and business interests that will be paid for with a per-person tax on everyone’s insurance policies of $4 a month or $48 per year plus premium (a family of four would pay an extra $192 per year). If it turns out that there isn’t enough to fund the pool, Maine will have to do what other states with reinsurance pools have done — limit benefits to the sickest people, or raise the tax. Is that fair?

The Republican health care plan is a bad deal, especially for Maine seniors and rural Mainers. Democrats have a better plan that provides a reasonable compromise with insurance reforms that will comply with-and-maximize current federal dollars.

House Democrats proposed a bold amendment to allow market reforms within federal law, more fair to rural Maine, and to provide protections for consumers in a reinsurance pool. Importantly, our plans require study and further public hearings on any insurance tax. But unfortunately, House Republicans voted unanimously to kill the compromise.

I urge you to contact Republican lawmakers and ask them to vote against this reckless proposal that will increase costs for most Maine people. Urge them to consider a bipartisan compromise that uses factual Maine-based data to guide major health policy.

Thank you for listening. Have a wonderful day.