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Local legislators reject effort to restore "junk" insurance

By Stephen Betts | Apr 29, 2021

Augusta — Midcoast Democrats helped defeat bills that their political party said would have brought back "junk" health insurance plans.

The state Senate voted 22 to 13 April 28 to reject the Republican-sponsored LD 424 which was titled "An Act to restore short term health insurance."

All three Midcoast Democratic Sens. David Miramant of Camden, Chloe Maxmin of Nobleboro and Glenn "Chip" Curry of Belfast voted against the bill.

The House voted 84-63 against LD 443 "An Act to ensure health insurance markets" and 85-60 against LD 352"An Act to maintain the integrity of the individual small group health insurance markets."

All local state Reps. voted against the two bills that were acted on also on April 28. They include Democratic Reps. Valli Geiger of Rockland, Vicki Doudera of Camden, Ann Matlack of St. George, Genevieve McDonald of Stonington and independent Reps. Jeffrey Evangelos of Friendship and William Pluecker of Warren.

State Senate President Troy Jackson, D-Allagash, issued a news release April 28, saying members of the Senate Democratic Caucus soundly rejected legislation to bring back junk insurance health plans. The Maine Legislature passed a law putting strict limitations on such insurance plans in 2019.

“Mainers expect their health insurance plans to cover their basic needs and be there when they are sick or injured. It’s why my colleagues and I championed legislation to put strict limits on short-term health insurance plans, otherwise known as junk insurance plans, last session,” Jackson said in the news release.

“Health insurance companies shouldn’t be able to trick Mainers into purchasing these cheap, faulty plans. They shouldn’t be able to sell Mainers a bill of goods only to pull the rug out from underneath them in a health crisis. Today, we once again made it clear that Senate Democrats will always choose Maine people over large insurance companies. These junk insurance plans are typically offered as a substitute for comprehensive health care coverage but fail to cover the basics. The plans aren’t subject to the same standards ushered into statute through the Affordable Care Act or Maine’s Act To Protect Health Care Coverage for Maine Families.

This means plans can discriminate based on health status, age and gender, exclude coverage of preexisting conditions, impose annual or lifetime limits, opt not to cover entire categories of benefits (such as prescription drugs), rescind coverage and require higher out-of-pocket cost-sharing than otherwise allowed, Jackson said.

Republicans issued their own news release April 28.

"Today, along party lines, Democrat legislators defeated two bills designed to preserve lower individual and small group market insurance rates and enhance consumer choice. Two bills (LDs 352 & 443), sponsored by Rep. Joshua Morris (R-Turner), would protect an individual insurance market that has experienced an 11% reduction in premiums and increase coverage options. Democrats effectively voted to increase premiums by 4%. People with a preexisting condition would pay even more. Small businesses, and their employees, would also experience a limitation on choice and reductions in benefits (LD 443)," the Republican press release stated.

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