Panel of Maine lawmakers deadlocks on health exchange bills

Posted Jan. 18, 2012, at 6:47 p.m.

AUGUSTA, Maine — Members of a legislative committee disagreed Wednesday over how the state should structure and oversee a new health insurance exchange.

Mandated under the federal health reform law to be in place by 2014, the exchanges are designed to serve as a marketplace for individuals and businesses to shop for health insurance coverage. The Legislature’s Insurance and Financial Services Committee met Wednesday to consider two bills governing how Maine’s exchange would operate, but failed to reach a compromise.

Both bills propose setting up an independent health exchange funded by an assessment on insurers for all paid claims. A bill sponsored by Rep. Sharon Treat, D-Hallowell, would phase out the state’s Dirigo Health program to make way for the exchange and set up an oversight board that would include at least two consumer representatives.

The second bill, sponsored by Rep. Jonathan McKane, R-Newcastle, proposes a board consisting of 10 members appointed by the governor, including four representing insurers and brokers, three from the health provider sector, two employers and one buyer of individual insurance.

Also in play is a set of recommendations crafted last year by a nine-member advisory panel appointed by Gov. Paul LePage which proposed housing the exchange within a state department rather than establishing it as an independent agency.

The committee members agreed to meet again next week to discuss the bills.

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