No matter where you live in the state the challenges we face when it comes to affording and accessing adequate healthcare are staggering. Whether it be an unaffordable deductible, a two hour or more drive to see a specialist, an unexpected diagnosis or an emergency room visit, many of us are one step away from an impossible situation. 

Good afternoon. I’m Speaker of the Maine House of Representatives Sara Gideon. Thank you for tuning in. As part of a special two part radio address, Senate President Troy Jackson and I will be sharing with you how we are working with Governor Janet Mills to address the significant challenges facing our health care systems and making real reforms. 

At the national level, constant changes to the Affordable Care Act continue to be proposed with various federal actions and ongoing lawsuits complicating the state of healthcare for Americans. Insurance companies have created complicated billing systems that often don’t cover services. Pharmaceutical companies continue to increase rates on medicine. All of this creates great uncertainty for Mainers, threatening our confidence that healthcare access and coverage will be there when we need it. 

That’s why this legislative session, we took immediate action on a number of items that would help drive down the costs of healthcare, while simultaneously working to increase access.

Our very first piece of legislation, LD 1, requires insurance companies to include basic patient protections in health care plans offered in Maine and ensures that Mainers with pre-existing conditions will not be denied coverage. This new law helps to provide one piece of stability and codifies the patient protections outlined in the Affordable Care Act into state law. 

Patient protections include the coverage of essential health benefits like ambulance services, mental health treatment and maternity and newborn care. This law also prohibits charging seniors substantially higher rates due to age; it bans lifetime and annual caps on coverage and it allows young adults up to age 26 to remain on their parents’ insurance.

In our biennial budget, we also worked together to bring in the federal funding that will get more people covered by MaineCare insurance. By finally implementing the voter-approved Medicaid Expansion law, we expanded access to health care for 70,000 Mainers and made available over $500 million in new federal funds. It was a common sense move that will improve health, add jobs, and help preserve Maine’s community hospitals and health centers that so many of us depend on.

These actions are already making a difference. Just a few weeks ago, Maine’s three providers of health insurance on the Affordable Care Act marketplace announced they have revised their rate requests for 2020, significantly lowering their projected rates. And the reason they stated for this cost lowering was the increase in stabilization efforts. 

But this work is far from over. Our newly formed Health Coverage, Insurance and Financial Services Committee will continue to focus on consumer protections and equitable coverage. In the State House, we will continue to champion policies that result in affordability and accessibility because we know that healthy communities and a healthy workforce are essential to our state’s success.  And as your Speaker, you can count on me to fight for access to universal, affordable, quality care for all Maine families. 

Next week you’ll hear from Senator Jackson about our initiatives to lower the cost of prescription drugs and and how this leadership has already spurred federal action.

This is House Speaker Sara Gideon. Thanks for listening.