AP NEWS

Mills, Democrats unveil health care bill as lawmakers return

January 9, 2020 GMT

AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) — Gov. Janet Mills and Democratic legislative leaders unveiled a health care proposal Wednesday aimed at reducing costs for primary care visits and combining markets to lower health care costs as lawmakers returned to work.

The bill would let Maine manage parts of the exchange under the Affordable Care Act, combine the small group and individual markets, and make more primary care and behavioral care visits free.

Mills, a Democrat whose first act in office last year was to expand Medicaid under the federal health care law, said health care remains a “critical issue” for the state.

“The Made for Maine Health Coverage Act sets Maine-specific deductibles and copays, offers a Maine solution for small businesses, and creates a marketplace designed to best meet the needs of Maine people,” she said.

Joining the governor were Senate President Troy Jackson and House Speaker Sara Gideon, both Democrats.

Merging the small group and individual markets would create a large pool of about 120,000 patients managed by a state reinsurance program. It would require a waiver from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

Under the proposal, the first primary care and behavioral health visit would be free for individual and small group policy holders; the second and third visits could have a co-pay but the deductibles would not apply, the governor’s office said.

“Not a single Mainer should be rationing their medication or avoiding a trip to the doctor because they aren’t sure what it will end up costing,” Gideon said. “Every single one of us deserves access to quality, affordable health care.”

Democrats have control of both houses of the Maine Legislature, but Republicans said they intend to be a check on their power.

Warning against overspending, Republican leaders said they will make the fiscal health of state government their primary focus. They noted that the two-year budget represented an expansion in spending and that are already $400 million worth of spending proposals pending the appropriations committee.

The new legislative session, which is being held against the backdrop of 2020 elections, is expected to last until April.

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This story has been corrected to show that co-pays could apply for second and third primary and behavioral care visits instead of those visits being free from co-pays.