June 20, 2018
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Will the real House minority leader please stand up?

By Debra Plowman, Special to the BDN

Will the real House minority leader please stand up? Is it the Rep. Emily Cain who says the Maine Legislature does “our best to work together?” Or is it the Maine Democratic Party’s Rep. Cain, the party of increasing general distort-and-denounce tactics?

Rep. Cain’s Aug. 27 weekly radio address, written purely to frighten listeners for Democratic political gain, is a case in point.

In her radio address, the House minority leader cherry picks an Aug. 18 Ellsworth American story to paint a lopsided, absolute negative portrait of positive health insurance reforms recently made into law, mostly thanks to Republican legislators and the governor. These reforms, often referred to by their legislative document number, LD 1333, are brand new; several will be phased in over the next few years.

LD 1333 is designed to create more competition in Maine’s individual health insurance market which, in turn, will draw more people into that market — especially younger, healthier Mainers — and, in the process, bring down individual health insurance rates. I, among other Republican legislators, have said as a matter of public record that if, in the future, LD 1333 needs fixing or strengthening the Republican majority will act on that.

Ellsworth American reporter Cyndi Wood interviewed two health insurance brokers as sources for her story: Scott Boucher (part owner of Barresi Benefits Group) and Joel Allumbaugh (chief executive officer of National Worksite Benefit Group). I’ll quote what they told Ms. Wood about LD 1333 directly from her story:

“The impact of the legislation has been positive to the majority of the state of Maine,” Boucher said. And “Boucher said it is early yet to be judging the full impact of the new regulations, particularly on small business with more than five employees but fewer than 50.”

Joel Allumbaugh “said he and other brokers have seen positive signs in recent renewal prices.” He said “overall the legislation is stabilizing the insurance market and encouraging competition.”

None of that good news was even hinted at in Rep. Cain’s radio address.

While Boucher and Allumbaugh did speak of some small group policyholder clients seeing rate increases, Allumbaugh touched on LD 1333 solutions for these policyholders.

“Just because someone receives an insurance notice of, say, a 30-percent rate increase, doesn’t mean they’re going to pay a 30-percent rate increase,” Joel Allumbaugh told me.

He strongly recommends small business owners in such a position contact their brokers for solutions to consider.

For example, the rate increase may be based on outdated membership information. Adding new younger people to small group policies, adding more people, shopping for rates with other insurance companies, joining or starting a small group of self-insured entities — these are all options available to small group policyholders under LD 1333. New options are just ahead, such as buying health insurance from other states.

House Minority Leader Cain voted against LD 1333. She was among Democratic legislators willing to let Maine suffer two more years under the embarrassingly inadequate health insurance system their party rammed into place over the last several decades.

“Wait for Obamacare to kick in.” That is all the House Minority Leader and her colleagues were offering Maine last session. It’s all they’re offering now.

Selling fear might gain Democratic Party leaders political points. If so, it comes at the very high risk of tricking our small-business owners into missing “positive,” “stabilizing,” changes in Maine’s health insurance market that can help them.

As for the Minority Leader’s split public personality? Politicians can lead with positive words and actions or they can try moving people through fear. Before her next Democratic weekly radio address, Rep. Cain should consider that politicians can’t do both. Sooner or later people catch on.

Sen. Debra Plowman is the assistant majority leader of the Maine Senate. She represents Maine Senate District 33, which includes 17 Penobscot County communities.

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