Phil Bartlett, Maine State Senate District Six  

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Mainers Empowered with New Rights

Health Reforms Taking Effect Today

September 23, 2010

Democratic Lawmakers say 9-23-10 marks new day for health care consumers

Democratic Lawmakers in the Maine Senate today said that September 23rd marks a key benchmark for consumers in our state and country’s health care system. New provisions from the federal Affordable Care Act go into effect today, which provide health care consumers with a number of new rights and protections.

Senate Majority Leader Phil Bartlett, D-Cumberland County , said that new provisions beginning today will prohibit health insurers from denying coverage to kids with pre-existing conditions and stop insurers from putting a lifetime limit on benefits.

“For years, policy makers at the state and federal level have worked hard to increase consumer protections. The health care reforms going into effect today are the beginning of a series of changes designed to increase access to quality health care for every Mainer,” Senator Bartlett said.

While there are a number of reforms taking effect to protect consumers, consumers will also find a number of new benefits protected under the law they may not have had before.

Senator Joe Brannigan, D-Cumberland County , Senator Margaret Craven, D-Androscoggin County , and Senator Justin Alfond, D-Cumberland County , serve as members of the Joint Select Committee on Health Care Reform Opportunities and Implementation. The Committee was tasked by the Legislature to study the health care reforms passed by Congress and seek ways to implement its changes in Maine .

Senator Brannigan, who also co-chairs the committee, said that health care consumers will appreciate new benefits from the health insurance reform law as they learn more about it. For example, the law now allows people to receive cost-free preventative services. “For years we have been hearing from those who work in the health care industry that preventative screenings are key to stopping problems before they happen. For some reason, prevention has not always been the priority for many insurance companies. This new provision will save lives and ultimately lower costs by catching issues early through screening,” Senator Brannigan added.

Senator Craven said that she is pleased that changes today will allow young adults up to age 26 to stay on their parents insurance. “Covering young adults until age 26 is important because many in this age group are often uninsured or underinsured for a variety of reasons. This change will extend the umbrella of coverage to increase the level of health insurance security for young adults,” Senator Craven concluded.

As the federal law takes root, many consumers have asked policy makers if their health care options would increase or improve. Senator Alfond pointed out that additional provisions that are now law will provide consumers with the right to go to the nearest emergency room without penalty. Moreover, Senator Alfond pointed out that “Consumers will now be allowed to choose a primary doctor or pediatrician in their health care provider network. This option will give Maine people more choice to see the doctor they feel most comfortable with.” Senator Alfond added, “Female patients will also have the right to see an OB-GYN doctor of their choice without a referral from another doctor.”

Senator Brannigan added that new rights, benefits, and protections taking effect today from the new federal health care law are only the beginning of the new benefits that will be phased in between now and 2014.