Healthcare

Maine will be restarting our program to lower your health insurance costs

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My administration passed a bill to lower health care costs in 2011, but Obamacare halted it in its tracks. The Trump administration is allowing us to implement the Maine Guaranteed Access Reinsurance Association again, and this will lower your health insurance premiums.

MGARA is known as Maine’s “invisible high risk pool.” It was one of the centerpieces of our 2011 healthcare-reform legislation. It had a proven track record of success, lowering individual health premiums by approximately 20 percent. In fact, it became a national model.

In 2012 and 2013, MGARA collected about $26 million in premiums and $41 million in assessments, while paying out about $66 million in reinsured health insurance claims. It kept premium increases about 20 percent lower than they otherwise would have been. That is money in your pocket.

The Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, passed shortly after MGARA was implemented. There was substantial overlap between the federal and state programs, so MGARA’s was suspended.

As we know, Obamacare is really the “Un-afforable” Care Act. Here in Maine, as in many states, we have seen health insurance premium costs skyrocket. In the past two years alone, rates in Maine have gone up each year by more than 20 percent.

This is unacceptable, as well as unaffordable.

Reinstating MGARA will allow us to provide much-needed premium relief to Mainers who do not qualify for subsidies, without changing the benefits provided in any way.

Last year, the Legislature enacted a bill authorizing the reactivation of the invisible high-risk pool.

Insurers are prohibited from denying individual health insurance coverage or charging higher rates based on medical conditions, claims experience or other health risk factors.

MGARA is called an “invisible” pool because it does not affect the status of the individual who receive insurance through it in any way – they receive exactly the same coverage for exactly the same price from the same insurer.

MGARA is subsidized by a $4 per-member-per-month assessment on Maine’s entire health insurance market, so it has provided significant premium reductions in the individual market.

Industry experts predict that MGARA’s reactivation in 2019 would lower premiums by approximately 9 percent. Anthem, which had left the exchange in 2018 and minimized its presence in the off-exchange market, had announced that it would come back to the exchange if MGARA was reactivated.

This would raise the number of carriers in Maine’s exchange from two to three. All of this is good news for consumers.

Experts predict that some consumers will see the individual market premium fall by about 9 percent in 2019, the first year of MGARA’s reactivation. We will also see the number of uninsured reduced by between 300 to 1,100 per year, all with no change in benefit coverage.

We want to ensure that Mainers have the most health insurance options at the lowest cost. It’s the right thing to do.

About Paul LePage

Governor Paul LePage (R) has served as the 74th Governor of Maine since 2011. Prior to his time as governor, LePage served as the general manager of Marden's and as the mayor of Waterville.

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