Maine Medicine Weekly Update - 02/26/2021 (Plain Text Version)
In this issue:
Maine Legislature Week 7 Update
The following is a summary of happenings during week 7 of the Maine Legislature.
Committee on State and Local Government
On Monday, the Committee held a public hearing on LD 315, a bill meant to bring awareness to the Legislature on rule changes by state agencies since the onset of the pandemic. State Departments would be required to report all rule changes from March 2020 to November 2021 to the appropriate Legislative Committee. Legislators had a few questions ahead of the work session, to which the Secretary of State’s Office is invited to attend.
Committee on Health Coverage, Insurance and Financial Services
The HCIFS Committee had a busy day on Tuesday. LD 1, an Act to Establish the COVID-19 Patient Bill of Rights, had its first public hearing. LD 1 has three parts. The first requires insurance carriers to cover any COVID-19 expenses. The second authorizes pharmacists to administer the COVID-19 vaccine. The last part authorizes the delivery of telehealth through audio only. Dan Morin gave testimony on behalf of MMA in support of the bill. Fifteen testified in support of the bill. The most common sentiment was the dire need for citizens to be covered for COVID-19 expenses as our most impacted community is lower-income. Four were neither for nor against. The common concern regarded the bill’s perpetuity as there is no fixed end date. The other remark concerns the length of prescriptions, contending 180 day is too long and should be shortened to 90 day to avoid possible waste. A work session has been scheduled for next Tuesday, March 2nd, at 2:00p.m.
The Committee also held work sessions on several bills, notably LD 178 and LD 172. MMA’s Dan Morin previously testified as opposed to LD 178; Committee Chairperson Senator Sanborn explained that after watching the hearing, the sponsor decided to withdraw the bill. It was unanimously voted “Ought Not to Pass.” LD 172, which would require prescription labels to include a barcode to assist visually impaired patients, was tabled after a healthy discussion; Committee members preferred to go through testimony further and discuss the bill with its sponsor.
On Thursday, the Committee was scheduled to hold a work session on LD 295. The bill, having both support and opposition, was rescheduled due to a lengthy morning of public hearings. MMA previously testified as strongly opposed to the repeal of supervision requirements for Advanced Practice Registered Nurses in Maine, along with some physician members. Stay tuned for more information on a rescheduled work session.
LD 352, An Act To Maintain the Integrity of the Individual and Small Group Health Insurance Markets, proposes removing the requirement of pooling small group and individual insurance benefits. The bill would remove a requirement that was put into law in the previous session. It is in response to three recent major studies that show little to no benefit of the merge/pooling and one showed an increase in premiums for the individual market. Three supported the bill, one of which was Chis Howard of MGARA (to which provides most benefits). Howard noted in his testimony his actuarial consultant’s analysis of the three reports:
“Millman’s report indicates that the merger would reduce MGARA’s ability to deliver benefit to the Individual Market by a margin of approximately 30% - 50%.”
Two were in opposition to LD 352, stating how the pool would reduce risk for the consumers and work to lower costs. One was neither for nor against, David Cough, suggesting the committee not rush and to consider the assumptions made in each of the recent reports.
LD 274, Resolve, Directing the Maine Health Data Organization To Determine the Best Methods and Definitions To Use in Collecting Data To Better Understand Racial and Ethnic Disparities in the Provision of Health Care in Maine, and LD 273, An Act To Sustain the Doctors for Maine's Future Scholarship Program were heard Tuesday. LD 274 directs the Maine Health Data Organization to determine the best way to gather data in the State about the racial disparities. All six testimonies were in support of the resolve. Each noting the importance of gathering data now, as Maine has had the nation’s largest racial disparities with COVID-19.
LD 273 would provide further funding for the scholarship program. Without proposed funding, as William Norbert of the Finance Authority of Maine explained, the scholarship program would be forced to cut half of its covered students. MMA’s Dan Morin testified in support, along with twenty-one written testimonies in support. A work session will be held March 4 at 9:30a.m.
Committee on Health and Human Services
On Wednesday, the HHS Committee heard testimony on two bills of medical interest: LD 265 and LD 372. The former, An Act to Provide Women Access to Affordable Postpartum Care, was met with wide support. MMA provided testimony in support of the bill, citing the importance of access to care for babies and mothers in the first year of life. LD 372, An Act to Provide Maine Children Access to Affordable Health Care, was also met with support. Both bills move on to a work session in the near future.