MAINE, USA — Health care advocates are encouraging Maine's congressional delegation to support the Biden Administration's Build Back Better plan.
Maine has started its own health insurance marketplace, but some say this won't matter if low-income Mainers lose tax credits for health insurance.
According to Consumers for Affordable Healthcare (CAHC), about 100,000 Mainers didn't have health insurance in 2019.
Now, health care leaders are trying to encourage Mainers to sign up for insurance through the state's new marketplace Cover ME.
"We're very excited for this opportunity," Department of Health and Human Services Commissioner Jeanne Lambrew said.
Lambrew said people have already signed up for insurance on Cover ME in the week since open enrollment started.
"There's higher-than-ever financial assistance so people who may not be able to afford coverage in a previous year may now be able to find a plan that suits them well," she said.
She added that the department will be doing some marketing and education around Cover ME as well.
Some of the financial assistance, though, comes from the American Rescue Act, and healthcare advocates are urging federal legislators to support the President's Build Back Better plan so Mainers can continue to get a tax credit for healthcare.
"The Build Back Better plan would make it permanent," Senate President Troy Jackson said.
At a press conference with CAHC Tuesday, Jackson encouraged Maine's federal lawmakers to support Build Back Better.
The delegation remained divided Wednesday about support for the plan.
Congresswoman Chellie Pingree, D-Maine, wrote in a statement, "I’ve made my support for President Biden’s Build Back Better Act clear because it will deliver real action to lower the everyday costs that burden Mainers. The American Rescue Plan laid the groundwork for improving the Affordable Care Act, and Build Back Better will further our vision of a more equitable health care system by expanding ACA premium assistance through 2025, making health insurance more affordable than ever. This transformational legislation truly meets the moment and will fulfill the urgency Americans and Mainers rightfully demand of their government.”
The office of Congressman Jared Golden, D-Maine, said in an email, "The congressman is reviewing the latest text of the BBB Act and is waiting for the required budget analysis before making a decision on the bill."
Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, supports the plan as it stands now but is waiting for it to be hashed out in the House, his office said.
The office of Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, told NEWS CENTER Maine in an email, “One of Senator Collins’ top priorities is improving the affordability and accessibility of health care. The negotiations between the Democratic House, the Democratic Senate, and the Biden Administration on the reconciliation package still has a ways to go, and it’s not yet clear what this partisan effort will produce.”
Consumers for Affordable Healthcare agrees with Jackson, and its employees are working with the state on the Cover ME marketplace.
"Maine people who aren't offered health insurance through their jobs or who can't afford health insurance are eligible for extra help paying their monthly premiums," executive director Ann Woloson said.
She added that COVER ME is helpful for people who aren't offered health insurance through their employer, or for self-employed Mainers and small business owners.