I deeply believe that health care is a basic human right. As a society, we recognize that education is a basic right for all Americans. It should be the same with health care. But one of the biggest barriers to health care is that folks just can’t afford it. For folks struggling to get by, the cost of health care emergencies can devastate entire families.

Last year, we passed legislation to hold drug companies accountable, make prescription medication more affordable and make health care more accessible for folks across Maine. We passed four bills to lower the cost of prescription medication. We fully funded MaineCare expansion. And we prevented insurance companies from discriminating against folks with pre-existing conditions. These were significant steps forward, but we have more work to do. That’s why Democrats introduced the Patients First health care package.

Imagine Maine being a place where everyone could always get the care they need, and where no one ever had to worry about how to pay for it. The Patients First health care package will help us realize that vision.

The Patients First health care package contains four bills to hold the greedy health care industry accountable and lower the cost of health care. I testified in support of all four bills.

LD 2110, “An Act To Lower Health Care Costs,” was sponsored by Senate President Troy Jackson, D-Allagash. It will create the Maine Commission on Affordable Health Care, which will hold predatory companies accountable. This bill will give folks someone in their corner when they go up against drug and insurance companies.

LD 2096, “An Act To Save Lives by Capping the Out-of-pocket Cost of Certain Medications,” was sponsored by House Speaker Sara Gideon, D-Freeport. About 142,000 Mainers have diabetes. Yet the price of insulin to treat type 1 diabetes has nearly doubled from $2,864 to $5,705 per person, per year. By capping the out-of-pocket cost of insulin for Mainers on the health care plans that the state is able to regulate, we can make it easier for more families to afford lifesaving medication. I hope Washington will follow our lead and work to lower the cost of insulin and other lifesaving medications at the federal level.

LD 2111, “An Act To Establish Patient Protections in Billing for Health Care,” was introduced by Sen. Ned Claxton, D-Auburn. By giving patients information about the costs of medical procedures before they’re scheduled, this bill will increase transparency so patients know and understand what they are paying for. It also protects patients from abusive billing practices by eliminating unnecessary fees and requiring health care companies to bill patients in a timely manner.

LD 2105, “An Act To Protect Consumers from Surprise Emergency Medical Bills,” from Speaker Gideon, focuses on surprise billing practices, which have become the subject of national scrutiny. During a medical emergency, getting treatment is our number one priority — not worrying about whether a provider is in-network or what the deductible will be. This bill will protect patients from those surprise emergency medical bills, making our health care system fairer and more equitable.

Legislation alone won’t be enough to fix our health care system. We also need to remember that a good diet and regular exercise are critical to our health. That’s true now more than ever, with the novel coronavirus spreading around the world. Since the virus is likely to reach Maine, our best defense is to stay healthy by eating well, exercising and getting enough sleep. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also have recommendations for avoiding exposure to the virus.

But in addition to each of us taking care of ourselves, we lawmakers must do our part to take care of folks throughout Maine. That means going after drug and insurance company greed, banning abusive billing practices, and capping the prices of lifesaving drugs. That’s what the Patients First health care package will do, and I hope my fellow lawmakers will fully support it.

If you would like to share your views with me on health care or any other topic, please contact me at David.Miramant@legislature.maine.gov or 207-287-1515. It’s an honor to serve as your state senator.

 

Sen. Dave Miramant represents coastal Knox County in the Maine Senate