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Democratic Radio Address by Rep Henry Beck of Waterville

May 7, 2011
Reckless health care overhaul jacks up rates, limits access to care

This week Republican lawmakers ramrodded a proposal to overhaul Maine’s health insurance
protections through the Maine House. Their proposal will drive up costs for people living in rural areas
and Mainers over age 48.

Democrats believe working to lower the cost of health care for Maine people with market reforms, while
increasing quality and accessibility, is and should be our top priority. How to get there is what fuels the
health insurance debate.

The Republican plan was recklessly rushed through the legislature. It pits Maine people against each
other. The young verses the old, the north verses the south. It allows the insurance industry to shift the
cost of health care from one group of Maine people to another with no limits and little protection.

According to the Bureau of Insurance analysis of a similar but LESS DRASTIC plan, this bill will
cause health care rates in rural Maine to go up at the very least by 20 percent. Maine people living in
the North will experience AT LEAST a 19 percent rate increase. Maine people living in Down East will
experience AT LEAST a 22 percent rate increase.

In addition to making health care more expensive for rural Mainers, the package also repeals rules that
limit how far an insurance company can ask policyholders to travel to get care in network. Health care
access in rural communities and your local doctors would be affected by the repeal of these protections.

The overhaul will allow insurance companies to charge a Mainer five times more than their neighbor
for insurance based on their age alone. And most troubling, there will be no limits on rate changes
depending on where you live, or what kind of job you have.

The bill also creates a segregated reinsurance pool run almost completely by insurance companies and
business interests that will be paid for with a per-person tax on everyone’s insurance policies of $4 a
month or $48 per year plus premium (a family of four would pay an extra $192 per year). If it turns
out that there isn’t enough to fund the pool, Maine will have to do what other states with reinsurance
pools have done — limit benefits to the sickest people, or raise the tax. Is that fair?

The Republican health care plan is a bad deal, especially for Maine seniors and rural
Mainers. Democrats have a better plan that provides a reasonable compromise with insurance reforms
that will comply with-and-maximize current federal dollars.

House Democrats proposed a bold amendment to allow market reforms within federal law, more fair
to rural Maine, and to provide protections for consumers in a reinsurance pool. Importantly, our plans
require study and further public hearings on any insurance tax. But unfortunately, House Republicans
voted unanimously to kill the compromise.

I urge you to contact Republican lawmakers and ask them to vote against this reckless proposal that will
increase costs for most Maine people. Urge them to consider a bipartisan compromise that uses factual
Maine-based data to guide major health policy.

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