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Health-Care Affordability Bill Could Bring Insurance to Thousands of Mainers

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Roughly 34,000 Mainers fall into what's called the "family glitch." They can't get assistance with health-care premium costs, and also can't afford employer-sponsored family coverage. (Andrey Popov/Adobe Stock)
Roughly 34,000 Mainers fall into what's called the "family glitch." They can't get assistance with health-care premium costs, and also can't afford employer-sponsored family coverage. (Andrey Popov/Adobe Stock)
 By Lily Bohlke - Producer, Contact
May 4, 2021

AUGUSTA, Maine -- A bill before the Legislature would make health-insurance plans more affordable to many Mainers, by implementing a health-insurance assessment; a fee for-profit insurance companies would pay to an "Affordability Fund."

Ann Woloson, executive director of Maine Consumers for Affordable Health Care, said they often hear from people who either can't afford insurance coverage or do not qualify for any help to get coverage, perhaps because of their immigration status or because they fall into what's referred to as the "family glitch."

Working families fall in the family glitch when one member is offered family coverage by their employer.

"It basically means that that family can't get any help through the Marketplace paying their monthly premiums, just because of the offer of family coverage through an employer, even if their family coverage is far too expensive for their family," Woloson explained.

This is the first year since 2014 that insurance companies don't have to pay the assessment at the federal level after former President Donald Trump eliminated it. If the bill passes, Maine could generate more than $30 million annually for insurance-premium tax credits and other assistance for residents who can't currently afford health-insurance plans.

Woloson pointed out it's a modest assessment spread over most carriers in Maine, and noted over the last year, insurance companies have remained profitable, even with the economic hardship many folks have faced.

"This just does not seem like a time to be giving a break to insurance companies when Mainers and people across the country are struggling to afford the health coverage they need," Woloson argued.

Maine would be joining other states that have opted to pass state-level assessments, including Colorado, Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey and New Mexico, some even before the federal assessment expired.

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