(UPDATED) Maine Gov LePage Threatens Blanket Vetoes & Govt Shutdown; Dem Majority Leaders Fire Back

Posted on March 1, 2013. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , |

(11:45 am UPDATE– A media availability press conference has now been announced for later this afternoon with the entire Democratic majority leadership members.)

A busy morning, as Governor Paul LePage, just returning from a “blink and you missed it” trip to DC and his annual Florida family vacation has once again blustered himself into some media coverage that is sure to get more national attention:

huffy lepage

    During a Bangor radio station interview this morning, Gov. Paul LePage said he will veto every bill that crosses his desk until his plan to repay hospitals goes into law. That includes the bill that will allow bars to open at 6 a.m. on St. Patrick’s Day, which falls on a Sunday this year.

    LePage was speaking to Rik Tyler, on the George Hale/Rik Tyler Show on WVQM 101.3 and WVOM 103.9. The governor said he will veto any and all bills — including his own — until the emergency legislation he submitted is signed into law. LePage said he notified legislators of that intent last week.

More via Portland Press Herald:

    Tyler, the radio show host, was caught off guard by the governor’s veto comment. LePage elaborated, saying the Legislature had passed emergency legislation to allow bars to open early on Sunday for St. Patrick’s Day and an emergency moratorium on public inspection of concealed weapons permit holder information.

    LePage urged passage of the concealed weapons bill.

    “If that’s more important than paying the hospitals then I think we have a problem,” LePage said.

    He added, “Until they move forward … I’m not going to move forward on any legislation,” he said.

    LePage added that the veto threat applied to his own bills.

Within hours, some of the Democratic majority leaders fired back with the following press release:

    DEMOCRATS DENOUNCE LEPAGE SHUTDOWN, VETO THREATS

    Democrats call on Republicans to reject “do nothing” politics

    AUGUSTA — Democratic leaders on Friday denounced Governor Paul LePage’s threat to halt the work of the Legislature by abusing his veto power and shutting down state government until his hospital repayment plan becomes law.

    goodall“In one week we’ve heard ongoing threats to shutdown state government if Republicans don’t get what they want. Today, the Governor promised to veto every bill that comes across his desk if he doesn’t get what he wants. This is not governing. This is not leadership. It is the type of political gamesmanship that doesn’t belong here in Maine,” said Senate Majority Leader Seth Goodall of Richmond. “I suspect the people of Maine want leaders not schoolyard bullies. We have serious challenges facing our economy and we should be focused on finding solutions not making threats.”

    During a radio appearance early Friday morning, the Governor promised that he will veto all bills that cross his desk until the Legislature passes his borrowing scheme to make the final payment to Maine hospitals. Republicans have failed to acknowledge that the hospital debt has been continuously and increasingly paid back, thanks largely to a plan developed by Democrats. The Governor’s threat to shutdown state government follows Republican House Minority Leader Ken Fredette’s prediction of a shutdown last week.

    Seth Berry File Photo 2012 cropped“First, Republican leaders start throwing around the possibility of a state government shutdown and now the Governor is threatening to go on a veto spree. This type of brinksmanship is even worse than what we’re seeing from the GOP in Washington. Maine people deserve better than this from their leaders,” said House Majority Leader Seth Berry of Bowdoinham.

    Democrats are focused on legislation to strengthen Maine’s workforce, public schools, and the middle class. The Governor is threatening those and other important efforts.

    jeff mccabe“The Governor is telling us it’s his way or the highway. His obstructionist bullying will derail important legislation on domestic violence, public safety and economic development,” said Assistant Majority Leader Jeff McCabe of Skowhegan. We call on our Republican colleagues to reject such do-nothing politics.

    The LePage administration is pushing a convoluted plan that pulls the state’s wholesale liquor business into a deal that would put Maine in debt to Wall Street to make the final payment to hospitals. The plan gambles the value of the liquor contract and is being used to hold hostage other bonds that already have approval from Maine voters.

    troy jackson nmt
    “Today the Governor told the people of Maine that the hospitals are more important than they are. I disagree,”
    said Assistant Majority Leader Senator Troy Jackson of Allagash. “I think the people of Maine want lawmakers focused on getting folks back to work, earning more money and improving our schools.”

    Maine has paid more than $3.7 billion to hospitals over the last decade.

    Jackson added, “We need to get the best deal for Maine and that requires us working together. I think everyone agrees that ten years ago we rushed this deal and could’ve done better. Now, we cannot gamble the future of Maine because the Governor is having another temper tantrum.”

Interesting timing for the latest outburst from LePage- could it be to deflect attention from the fact that starting today, all of the… um… “inaccuracies” that former Rep. Jon McKane and the rest of the 125th GOP legislators told to get LD 1333/ PL 90 shoved into law are being exposed as such?

    About 7,000 Maine customers of Mega Life and Health Insurance Co. will be affected by a rate change set to take effect March 1.

    While some policyholders will see their health premium costs drop by nearly 33 percent, others will be hit with rate hikes of up to 47 percent, according to Mega’s filing with the Maine Bureau of Insurance. The average rate increase across all policyholders amounts to 6.5 percent.

    The rate change affects Mega’s individual policyholders, or people who purchase health coverage on their own rather than through an employer. The 6,990 policies involved provide coverage to about 12,600 people, including the policyholders’ dependents.

It is also worth noting that one of the loudest critics of Dirigo Health, created by the Maine Legislature in 2003 to offer an affordable option to small businesses or self-employed individuals, and a co-sponsor of PL 90/ LD 1333, termed out former Rep. Jonathan McKane of Newcastle, was selected to sit on Dirigo Health’s board.

More to come.

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(BLAST FROM THE PAST) LD 1333 Already Causing Fears of Skyrocketing Rates, Disgraced Insurers Coming Back to Maine

Posted on November 26, 2012. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , |

(Originally posted 13 Sep 2011. ~AP)

Bangor Daily reporting that the U.S. Census Bureau today will be releasing the latest uninsured figures today. But as it is based upon the 2010 census numbers, one wonders how accurate the numbers for Maine will be.

Especially in light of news that the insurance industry is already raising premiums beyond reach of many small rural Maine companies.

One company that left Maine but has now returned, Assurant, is now sending out expensive lil recruiting literature to all life and health (L&H) insurance agents in the state. Previously they did business under than name of Fortis, and had landed themselves in hot water with the State of Maine Bureau of Insurance, as did the company John Alden.

More on Assurant here, John Alden here.

Expect to see a LOT of these formerly disgraced companies coming back home to roost in Maine, thanks to LD 1333. There are many reasons they left Maine markets in the first place, and one would be wise to be skeptical of them as they return, as well as do their own research into the companies before they sign anything.

In addition to Senator Plowman’s opinion piece today where she failed repeatedly and predictably to mention her (and others) many questionable connections to ALEC and MHPC, the Bangor Daily News ran one from Rep. Walter Kumiega (D-Deer Isle).

Some clips:

One of those laws is the major health insurance overhaul Republicans pushed through a few months ago.We are already seeing the negative effects of this health insurance overhaul. The Ellsworth American reported recently that some small businesses in rural Maine will be seeing their health insurance costs go up more than 60 percent as early as October.

According to the report, small businesses in Hancock, Washington and Aroostook counties will seeinsurance premiums rise more than 60 or 70 percent. One company in Presque Isle may see an increase of 90 percent.

Premium hikes like these will put the companies at their breaking points. A recent survey of Maine people by Market Decisions found that 21 percent fear losing health insurance coverage in the next 12 months. Nearly 40 percent of those individuals said the top reason for their fear was the new health care law passed by Republicans in Augusta.

It’s no wonder they are afraid. The insurance overhaul will allow insurance companies selling individual policies to set rates based on age at up to five times higher than the lowest rate. And, most troubling, there will be no limits on rate changes depending on where you live, or what kind of job you have.

The new law expands that ratio to 1 to 5; that is, if the lowest premium is $500 a month, the highest an insurer can now charge is $2,500. The thought is that that insurers would increase the premiums for their more costly customers while – don’t laugh at this – lowering the costs for the young and healthy.

Raise your hand if you can afford $2500 a month for health insurance. Yeah, me neither.

This caught my eye, as I was in the House gallery on May 5th during the first reading of LD 1333:

During the floor debate, I asked this question to all the lawmakers in the House: “What effect will this have on premiums for a 50-year-old, self-employed fisherman living on an offshore island?” No one answered, either because they did not know or did not like the answer.

In fact, Reps. Kumiega, Webster and Russell all had questions of their colleagues that went completely unanswered. Have a look:

This is just getting started and it’s going to get much worse before it gets better.

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SD 17’s Republican Garrett Mason: ‘Busy, Busy, Busy’ (VIDEO)

Posted on October 16, 2012. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , |

New video out this morning against SD 17’s Mason; give it a look:

    “State Senator Garrett Mason has been busy in Augusta. Sadly, he has been busy hurting Maine’s Middle Class. He has been busy giving tax breaks to Maine’s wealthiest, draining funds from public schools and caving into the health insurance companies. He even has been busy working on several bills designed to interfere with a woman’s right to choose. Garrett Mason has been busy hurting Maine’s Middle Class.”

Here are links as mentioned in the ad:

MECEP, 5/9/11 (on LD 1333)

Senate Roll Calls:
LD 31
LD 116
LD 924
LD 1457
LD 1463

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Rep. Anne Graham Submits Bill To Prevent Unreviewed Insurance Rate Hikes

Posted on October 27, 2011. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , |

(Via press release)


Bill to prevent health insurance rate hikes submitted

Rep. Graham says fix to Republican health insurance overhaul needed now

AUGUSTA – Rep. Anne Graham, D- North Yarmouth, submitted new legislation to prevent insurance companies from increasing rates without a review by the Maine Bureau of Insurance for the upcoming legislative session in January. The bill was introduced to help fix problems resulting from the Republican insurance overhaul that was rushed through the legislature last spring.

“The bill simply prevents insurance companies from excessively increasing rates without oversight,” said Graham, who fought against the radical health insurance overhaul known as LD 1333 (now public law 90). “Maine families and small businesses just can’t afford to put more money in the pockets of big insurance.”

When Anthem recently proposed a 9.7 percent increase in individual rates, the Bureau of Insurance limited it to 5.2 percent after a thorough review. Under the new law put in place by LD 1333, the bureau could no longer review rate increases on small businesses or individuals of up to 10 percent.

Graham’s bill, “An Act to Enhance Affordable, Quality Health Care in Maine,” restores the oversight role of the Maine Bureau of Insurance in the insurance rate review process, preventing excessive price hikes by insurance companies. It also establishes a council to monitor health care accessibility and quality as well as payment reform and expands consumer oversight of the new reinsurance pool. The pool is funded by a new tax on policyholders and is primarily overseen by insurance executives.

Legislative leaders from both parties will decide if the bill will be considered next year during a meeting of the Legislative Council on Oct. 31. The second session of the legislature is typically reserved for top priority measures, such as bills relating to the budget, emergency legislation and legislation carried over from the first session.

“If we want to get serious about lowering health care costs, we must address the cost drivers through payment reform and prevention,” said Graham, who works as a pediatric nurse practitioner. “We must fix the law before it gets any worse.”

LD 1333 allows insurance companies selling individual policies to set rates based on age at up to five times higher than the lowest rate. There are no limits on rate changes depending on where you live or what kind of job you have.

Small businesses in Hancock, Washington, and Aroostook counties are projected to see insurance premiums rise more than 60 or 70 percent. One company in Presque Isle is already expecting to see an increase of 90 percent.

“Our health care laws should be focused on helping consumers, patients, and small businesses not growing the bottom line of big insurance companies,” added Graham.

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Rep. Anne Graham Submits Bill To Prevent Unreviewed Insurance Rate Hikes

Posted on October 27, 2011. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , |


Bill to prevent health insurance rate hikes submitted
Rep. Graham says fix to Republican health insurance overhaul needed now

AUGUSTA – Rep. Anne Graham, D- North Yarmouth, submitted new legislation to prevent insurance companies from increasing rates without a review by the Maine Bureau of Insurance for the upcoming legislative session in January. The bill was introduced to help fix problems resulting from the Republican insurance overhaul that was rushed through the legislature last spring.

“The bill simply prevents insurance companies from excessively increasing rates without oversight,” said Graham, who fought against the radical health insurance overhaul known as LD 1333 (now public law 90). “Maine families and small businesses just can’t afford to put more money in the pockets of big insurance.”

When Anthem recently proposed a 9.7 percent increase in individual rates, the Bureau of Insurance limited it to 5.2 percent after a thorough review. Under the new law put in place by LD 1333, the bureau could no longer review rate increases on small businesses or individuals of up to 10 percent.

Graham’s bill, “An Act to Enhance Affordable, Quality Health Care in Maine,” restores the oversight role of the Maine Bureau of Insurance in the insurance rate review process, preventing excessive price hikes by insurance companies. It also establishes a council to monitor health care accessibility and quality as well as payment reform and expands consumer oversight of the new reinsurance pool. The pool is funded by a new tax on policyholders and is primarily overseen by insurance executives.

Legislative leaders from both parties will decide if the bill will be considered next year during a meeting of the Legislative Council on Oct. 31. The second session of the legislature is typically reserved for top priority measures, such as bills relating to the budget, emergency legislation and legislation carried over from the first session.

“If we want to get serious about lowering health care costs, we must address the cost drivers through payment reform and prevention,” said Graham, who works as a pediatric nurse practitioner. “We must fix the law before it gets any worse.”

LD 1333 allows insurance companies selling individual policies to set rates based on age at up to five times higher than the lowest rate. There are no limits on rate changes depending on where you live or what kind of job you have.

Small businesses in Hancock, Washington, and Aroostook counties are projected to see insurance premiums rise more than 60 or 70 percent. One company in Presque Isle is already expecting to see an increase of 90 percent.

“Our health care laws should be focused on helping consumers, patients, and small businesses not growing the bottom line of big insurance companies,” added Graham.

 

-30-

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“Two Maines”: Health Care, New Taxes and the Marginalization of Rural Maine

Posted on May 23, 2011. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , |

(Received via email. ~ed.)

“Two Maines”: Health Care, New Taxes and the Marginalization of Rural Maine

By Troy Haines

As people living in Rural Maine, we have a shared understanding of our place in the politics of this state.  We know that the way of life we enjoy is second to none, but that somehow we are considered to be less important, or perhaps less impactful than the urban centers in Maine.  We know that the idea of “Two Maines” is very much prevalent in the minds of most Mainers, but  we differ in that we prefer the rural way of life.  Therefore it is a hard pill to swallow when our elected officials choose to pass legislation that makes it increasingly difficult to live in rural areas of Maine that are already economically depressed.

In the past, this attitude has manifested itself in the form of legislators from urban centers ignoring or failing to support legislation that benefits rural Maine, or passing legislation that negatively impacts rural Maine, simply because the disproportionate amount of representation in urban centers allow them to do so (Portland is 22 square miles and has 8 representatives, Aroostook is 7,000 square miles and has 9 representatives).

This is no longer the case.  We now find ourselves facing legislation that makes it nearly impossible to live in rural Maine that is supported by our own representatives. It is now the people we elected to represent us who are furthering the lobbyist driven urban agenda to our detriment and seeing to it that it is nearly impossible to maintain the way of life we enjoy.

The examples of this occurring during this administration are myriad (pro-foreign logging legislation, roll-backs of child labor laws and the elimination of revenue sharing with rural Maine in the budget to name a few), but no one instance has been so unabashedly anti-rural Maine as the discussion (or lack thereof) and passage of LD1333, the now infamous “Health Insurance” bill.

Let’s examine these provisions and how they affect different groups, point by point:

  • The bill allows insurers to charge 3 times as much for people over the age of 48.
  • People in “hazardous” positions can now be charged 5 times as much for their insurance.  Farm work, mill work, logging and many of the other jobs that factor heavily into the economy of rural Maine will be subject to this.
  • The bill allows the insurance industry to decide what positions fall under these provisions with no oversight.  Worst of all people living in rural Maine can be charged unlimited increases based solely on the fact that they live in rural Maine.  In addition to this insurers can require their policy holders to travel any distance they see fit for care.
  • Under the new law insurers can require a patient in Fort Kent to travel to Portland to see a doctor, and refuse to pay if that patient chooses a provider closer to home.
  • This bill eliminates many consumer protections Mainers currently have.  Once the bill is implemented, insurers can drop you if you get sick, can deny you coverage based on pre-existing conditions and can decide if they want to cover an illness or injury based solely on whether they want to pay the bill.  These are all things that they can’t do under current Maine law.
  • LD1333 also eliminates the power of the Superintendant of Insurance to block rate increases.  Since March of 2009 Anthem alone has asked for increases totaling more than 50%, in the same period that they enjoyed some of the largest profits they have ever had.  Maine’s Insurance Superintendant, Mila Kofman, denied them this increase.  Since the passage of 1333, she has resigned.  Under the new law their rate increases cannot be denied.
  • This law creates 24 million in new taxes on all Mainers who currently have coverage (with the exception of legislators.  They exempted themselves from the new tax), this from an administration and representatives who pledged not to create new taxes.
  • The Maine Center for Economic Policy estimates that rates for individual policy holders in Aroostook County will increase by 19%, and group policies by 17% (source: MECEP “Health Plan Winners and Losers”)
    .
  • Many people who are currently covered by their employers will be dropped because businesses will no longer be able to afford to cover them.  In fact nearly every segment of Maines population will see increases.  The only reductions will occur in and around Portland.Who are the legislators who are marginalizing rural Maine?  Every single Republican legislator from Aroostook County voted for this billthat increases our premiums by one fifth and results in loss of coverage for thousands, as did every Republican legislator, rural and urban alike, throughout the state.They spent only nine days debating this bill. In fact, Pat Flood (R-Winthrop) resigned his appropriations chairmanship over the unethical way in which this bill was rammed through.  Contrasted with the fact that they spent 52 days debating and passing a bill to make whoopee pies “Maine’s Official Confection”, you can see that they failed us in their approach of such a substantial bill.

    The basis for supporting this bill has come largely from the fact that Idaho has instituted a similar system.  Publicly Republicans have stated time and again that our system should look like the one Idaho recently introduced.  What they have failed to mention is that Idaho’s system has collapsed as a result of the changes.  Costs have significantly increased and thousands of Idaho citizens have lost their insurance.

    This bill is not good for anyone.  It’s not good for patients or providers.  It’s not good for hospitals or administrators, for large businesses or small.  It benefits no one except insurance companies.  Starting in 2014, Federal law will prohibit insurance companies from arbitrarily increasing rates.  All this bill accomplishes is allowing those companies to significantly elevate their rates ahead of this deadline to insure maximized profits at the expense of Maine citizens.

    With this so obviously being the case why did we end up with such a bad bill being passed?  Perhaps it’s because no other bill in this session has been so intensely lobbied.  Insurance companies spent tens of thousands of dollars lobbying this bill, and in the end their return will be significant.

    In places like Aroostook County we need legislators with strong voices who will protect and further our way of life.  We certainly can’t survive our own elected officials passing legislation designed to increase insurance industry profits at the expense of the elderly, the hard working, and rural Mainers.

    Troy Haines is the chair of the Aroostook County Democratic Committee.  He can be reached at 1-207-551-1301 or gyre1976@yahoo.com

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