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This week’s edition!

Governor’s Address: Whatever happens outside our state, you will not be denied health coverage here in Maine

Last December, a federal district court judge in Texas issued a decision that would strike down the entire Affordable Care Act.

The Trump Administration’s Department of Justice didn’t defend key parts of the law – those that guarantee that no one should be denied coverage or charged more because of a pre-existing condition.

If that decision is upheld, about 52 million Americans with pre-existing conditions could be denied life-saving health insurance coverage.

Also, insurance companies might go back to excluding essential health benefits, like coverage for mental health, maternity, and newborn care, to all the small businesses and individuals who buy insurance on their own.

I will not leave critical health care protections for Maine people to the whims of Congress or the courts. Earlier this year, I joined Senate President Troy Jackson and Speaker of the House Sara Gideon in support of LD 1, “An Act To Protect Health Care Coverage for Maine Families.” With bipartisan support in both houses, the Legislature enacted the bill and, this week, I was proud to sign LD 1 into law.

This new law protects Maine people with pre-existing conditions, regardless of what happens to key insurance reforms in the courts or in Congress.

Maine is the first state in the nation to pass such legislation since the federal court decision in December.

Before the Affordable Care Act was enacted in 2008, the number of uninsured Americans and the cost of health care was skyrocketing. Insurance companies would routinely refuse to cover those with pre-existing conditions or whom they deemed to be “high risk” or just too costly to cover. As a result, too many of our loved ones, neighbors, and friends went without care. People like my friend, Patty.

Patty was a vibrant, intelligent, charitable woman, an athlete, a mother of three wise children. She was loved by all… and she was uninsured. She died needlessly from breast cancer, a disease that could have been diagnosed earlier, treated, and probably cured.

Patty’s story is not unique. Many of you have friends like Patty. Their fate is simply unacceptable.

By 2016, because of the Affordable Care Act, the percentage of Americans who had health insurance coverage reached an all-time high of 91 percent and the growth in health care prices slowed to historic lows. We cannot afford to go back.

In addition to ensuring that no Maine person living with pre-existing conditions is denied coverage by commercial insurers, LD 1 prohibits charging seniors substantially higher rates because of their age.

LD 1 limits the prices people pay for their health care by restricting so called “cost-sharing” measures like co-insurance and deductibles – the kinds of things that come out of your pocket – and by banning lifetime and annual caps on coverage that don’t make sense if you’re sick.

LD 1 allows young adults up to age 26 to remain on their parents’ insurance, and it requires coverage of ten essential health benefits, including emergency services, ambulance services, prescription drug coverage, and maternity and pediatric care.

Health care is for everyone, not just for the well-to-do. It is for the small businesses struggling to pay high health insurance bills; it is for the family on the brink of bankruptcy because of one illness, accident, or medical mishap; and it is for the community that takes up collections in a jar at the corner store to pay for a good neighbor’s medical costs. It is for Patty. It is for every Mainer.

As emergency legislation, LD 1 took effect immediately upon my signature this week. I am so proud that our state has taken the important step of strengthening the laws that protect critical coverage for people with pre-existing conditions and so many other essential, basic health benefits.

Maine people can rest assured that, regardless of what happens outside our state, they will not be denied coverage here in Maine.

Thank you.

Janet Mills

Governor

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