AUGUSTA, Maine (NEWS CENTER)-- Health care costs keep going up, while health insurance costs increase just as rapidly. So the Maine Legislature on Wednesday began a special study to find ways for Maine to make sure everyone in the state can get affordable health insurance.
The Task Force on Health Care Coverage for All was created by the Legislature earlier in the year but is just beginning its work. The task force includes lawmakers, doctors, nurses, hospital leaders and other health care and insurance experts. During the initial meeting, those members many admitted the challenge is a big one but said the need is also great.
A study by the Kaiser Foundation, using 2014 data, shows health care in Maine costs more than $9,500 per person each year. The leaders of the task force - one Republican and one Democrat- said they will look at a range of options to address the complex issues involved.
“There certainly were differences of opinion (among task force members).” Said Rep. Heather Sanborn (R-South Portland), “but there was sort of a guiding principle that what we’re doing now isn’t working and there are things we can do to make it better.”
A group called Maine AllCare has been pushing to create a statewide, single-payer health insurance system, and that kind of plan is one of the options the task force will be studying. Republican co-chair of the task force, Sen. Richard Whittemore (R-Skowhegan) said he doesn’t believe that approach is affordable for Maine on its own.
“Primarily due to the cost of healthcare,” said Whittemore. “And until we address that, there isn’t much else we can do to make it affordable.”
The two committee chairs said they will also be looking at other strategies to provide affordable health care coverage for more Mainers. The task force is supposed to have several options to present to the Legislature in November of next year.
Task force member Frank McGinty, former Executive Vice President of Maine Health, said he believes there are steps Maine can take that will bring it closer to the goal of affordable coverage for everyone, and provide coverage for some who can’t afford it now.