Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Common Sense in Short Supply at Statehouse


There's a lot going on in the Legislature these days but common sense still seems in short supply. 

The health insurance bill I worked hard to defeat, LD 1333, has been signed into law as Public Law 90.  A lot has been said about this misguided policy that was ramrodded through the Legislature, but the bottom line is I believe the law is a giveaway to the insurance industry at the expense of consumers. 

The more I find out about this law, which still has not been analyzed by the Bureau of Insurance actuaries, the more concerned I become.  After the Senate amended the bill, many people thought that some of the major concerns were fixed.  Unfortunately this just isn't true.  I prepared this fact sheet for House members so that they could understand the amended bill. 

No prior rate review.  Just last week the Bureau of Insurance denied Anthem's request to raise rates nearly 10% on average in the individual market.  While the 5.2% allowed is no picnic, the new lawrepeals the authority in the future to review and deny similar rate increases.

An unregulated piggybank for insurance companies. The worst thing about the new law is that it grants the insurance industry taxing authority with little oversight over how much money they raise from policyholders and how that money is used.  The industry-dominated board of the the reinsurance fund (which includes NO consumers) sets the premium tax and decides which policyholders' medical claims will be paid from the fund.  They can literally game the pool in such a way as to get the most money, and then are exempt from prior review of rate increases. If you missed it, here is my commentary published recently in the Kennebec Journal. 

PL 90 makes Maine law inconsistent with the Affordable Care Act (ACA), an interesting situation leading to a decision that legislation LD 1498, to implement the ACA will be carried over to January, while a stakeholder group appointed by the Governor meets to discuss the issues.  Of course the Governor has vowed to repeal the ACA, and legislation is still pending to make implementation of the ACA a felony. Hmmm... I wonder how that will go.  

Common sense has prevailed with respect to some of the most contentious bills this session. We did not repeal the bottle return law, which would have eliminated hundreds of jobs and led to trash on the highways.  We did not repeal our billboard law, which would have hurt tourism and the "Maine brand." We did not eliminate the Board of Environmental Protection or agree to develop 3 million acres of northern Maine. Read the final version of LD 1 which omits most of the original language proposed by the Governor. 

But many proposed rollbacks have gone through or are still pending.  Abolishing LURC is still possible, with the GOP majority of the Ag & Forestry Committee pursuing a 1333-style ramrod approach to policymaking that was so successful before.  The pesticide notification registry is likely gone. The percentage of electricity generated from renewable energy instead of Midwest coal may be reduced. We repealed the state health plan.  The Superintendent of Insurance was essentially prevented from doing her job until she resigned.  And we may yet vote to allow guns in the Statehouse... if the kiddies want to visit, maybe you shouldn't wait until next week!

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