Is this the way to reform insurance?

By Bill Diamond
State Senator, D-Windham

Last week, the Maine House of Representatives gave initial passage of LD 1333 by a margin of 76-72. The bill, entitled “An Act To Modify Rating Practices for Individual and Small Group Health Plans and To Encourage Value-based Purchasing of Health Care Services,” is being advertised as an attempt to bring down the cost of health insurance for Mainers by taking a number of measures to increase competition.

This is certainly a good goal, as Maine has very high health insurance rates. I have some concerns, however about the process being employed to make these reforms. This bill, as originally heard by the Legislature’s Insurance and Financial Services Committee, was a very different creature. It contained some changes to the way rates are determined and provided for some incentives to increase efficiency. This was the version that the public had the opportunity to weigh in on at the public hearing, as opposed to the changed version in the form of a 30-plus page amendment.

What happened next was somewhat unusual and, unfortunately, became quite partisan. The majority of the committee voted to replace the original 1,500-word bill with another bill that is more than 10 times as long (over 17,000 words) and, more importantly, contains many provisions that lacked a proper public hearing. To compound matters, the bill was then placed before the House in only a few days and literally only hours after amended version of the bill was available to the public over the Internet. Some legislators admitted to not having had time to read and digest the new version.

I have to admit that this has all happened so fast that I have not yet had a chance to fully read and comprehend the details of this new version of LD 1333, so I can’t say in all honesty if I would support or oppose it. I will read it before it comes to the Senate. I can say, though, that I have serious concerns about rushing through something as serious as health insurance reform. Any bill that deserves passage should be able to stand up to public scrutiny, and any major changes to something as fundamental as health insurance certainly should be thoroughly and openly examined in great detail. After all, these changes will affect the lives, health and fortunes of many Maine families, and I for one don’t want to on vote something so important forced upon me in a rushed manor.

Health insurance in Maine needs reforming, but not without a full and thoughtful examination of all the possible risks and benefits. I’d welcome your comments on this topic, both on the greater issue of what types of health reform we should consider as well as what you think of the way this bill is being handled. You can send me an e-mail at or call my office at 287-1515.

Senator Bill Diamond is a resident of Windham, and serves the District 12 communities of Casco, Frye Island, Raymond, Standish, Windham and Hollis.

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