Maine Health Insurance Program Would Impose Surcharge On Beneficiary Claims

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Legislationbeing considered by Mainelawmakers would place a 1.8% fixed annual fee on claims paid by health insurersto help fund the state's DirigoChoice health insurance program, the PortlandPress Heraldreports. The program is expected to run out of funding in February 2009. Officialshad to cap enrollment last year because of costs. About 13,000 residents areenrolled in the program, according to bill sponsor state House Majority LeaderHannah Pingree (D).

Supporters of the legislation say it will help resolve issues related to thevariable amount of the fee, which has ranged from 1.7% to 2.4%. The amount isintended to be based on how much money the program, and other initiatives thatcover the uninsured, have saved the health care system over 12 months. The billalso would increase the state cigarette tax from $2 per pack to $2.50 per pack.

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Opponents contend that insurers and self-insured employers should not pay asurcharge and that the fee is added to the premium of policyholders. "It'sstill paid by the same people who are struggling with their own healthinsurance costs," Kris Ossenfort, a lobbyist with the Maine State Chamber of Commerce, said.

The Press Herald reports that "both sides are racing toattract legislators to their side" as the Legislature is scheduled toadjourn on Wednesday. The plan is expected to pass in the state House whereDemocrats outnumber Republicans 90 to 59, but "it is not clear whether itcan win the Senate, where Democrats outnumber Republicans by just onelegislator," the Press Herald reports (Huang, Portland PressHerald, 4/8).

Reprintedwith permission from kaisernetwork.org. You can view the entire Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report, search the archives, and sign upfor email delivery at kaisernetwork.org/email . The Kaiser Daily Health PolicyReport is published for kaisernetwork.org, a free service of The Henry J.Kaiser Family Foundation.

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