GOP health care reform reins in insurance rates

Governor LePage signing health care reform into law
Governor LePage signing health care reform into law

AUGUSTA – New numbers from the Maine Bureau of Insurance show that the Republican-led health care insurance reform law known as PL 90 has helped rein in small group premiums across the state.

The newly available information was released last week and offers encouraging evidence that PL90, a key accomplishment of Gov. Paul LePage’s administration, is helping to keep insurance rate increases at bay while enabling the first rate decreases in decades.

The Maine Bureau of Insurance report, which is intended to “illustrate the impact of PL 90 on small group health premiums,” points up the salient parts of the new data, which range from the 2nd and 3rd quarters of 2011 (pre-PL 90) to the 3rd quarter of 2013:

  • All rate change bands over 20 percent saw a decrease in the number of renewals receiving rate increases from 2012 to 2013
  • The percentage of rate decreases went up over three 3rd quarter comparison periods, from 3.4 percent in 2001 to 13.1 percent in 2012 and to 22.7 percent in 2013
  • There were no increases in excess of 100 percent in 2013

[RELATED: New health care law is helping Maine businesses…]

Comparing the 2nd and 3rd quarters of 2011, 2012 and 2013, MBI found the following:

  • The percentage of rate decreases went up over the three comparison periods (3.9 percent, 13.3 percent and 21.6 percent, respectively).
  • In all rate change bands of 40 percent and higher, the number of renewals receiving a rate increase saw a slight increase from 2011 to 2012 followed by a slight decrease from 2012 to 2013.

And, although critics of PL 90, such as the left-wing Maine People’s Alliance and its various adjuncts, have argued that the law will cause premiums to increase in northern and eastern portions of the state, the statistics do not support the claim. According to MBI, the data show “only minor differences in rate renewal increases received by small groups for third quarter 2013.”

Dan Bernier, a Waterville-based attorney who represents Maine’s insurance agents, told me the numbers show that PL 90 is working well.

“More importantly,” said Bernier, “the numbers show the reason health insurance and health care is so expensive is due too much government regulation.”

“This also should not be a big surprise,” he said. “We were not in a crises in the 1970s and 1980s.  The crises in health insurance and health care really took off in the 1990s when government intruded into these market in a big way.”

“Since Adam Smith published the Wealth of Nations in 1776, most economists have understood government regulations increase prices.  While some government regulation is necessary to protect the consumer, competition is what lowers prices, not government regulation.”

The Bangor Daily News and MaineToday Media newspapers have not reported on the data included in this report.

S.E. Robinson
MaineWire Reporter


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