How state government is helping Maine figure out Obamacare

By Eric Cioppa, Special to the BDN
Posted Oct. 06, 2013, at 9:34 a.m.

As Maine’s superintendent of insurance, I was interested in the Oct. 2 BDN editorial “Worried, confused about Obamacare? The silence from LePage is deafening.” But I was concerned it created the false impression that state government has done little to inform the public about federal health reform.

The Bureau of Insurance is an agency within the Department of Professional and Financial Regulation. The bureau regulates the insurance industry in Maine and is traditionally the primary voice on insurance matters for the governor and administration.

As such, the bureau plays the lead role in providing information about private health insurance on behalf of state government. And though more can always be done to educate the public about all types of insurance products, the bureau’s staff has been working incredibly hard for many months to disseminate details about the Affordable Care Act and to meet its various requirements.

Being proud of my coworkers, I should point out that this additional work has been done while the bureau continued to successfully carry out its many other functions. In fact, during this especially busy year, the bureau underwent its periodic re-accreditation evaluation by the National Association of Insurance Commissioners — receiving high marks and being re-accredited for five years.

As the editorial acknowledges, the bureau has conducted a series of public informational sessions about the ACA across Maine. Unfortunately, a reader might be left to believe little else has been done to inform people about health care options. That’s not the case.

The bureau’s website, www.maine.gov/insurance, has been regularly updated with considerable material, including details about the new health insurance plans to be offered in Maine’s individual and small group markets. The site also offers a PowerPoint presentation, created by the bureau, providing an overview of the ACA with Maine-specific details.

Through news releases, interviews, speeches, meetings with various groups and in response to dozens of questions from reporters, the bureau has endeavored to make the public aware of these and many other resources. We’ve sought to explain that access to the new federal marketplace is through healthcare.gov, and we have repeatedly encouraged consumers and business owners to contact the bureau with any questions or concerns.

Recently, we’ve done this in news releases to the BDN and media throughout the state in announcing the ACA informational sessions, when highlighting the new Oct. 1 through March 31 enrollment period and in focusing attention on ACA-related scams.

Additionally, the bureau has worked closely with the Maine Department of Health and Human Services on ACA issues that might relate to that agency’s mission and responsibilities. We’ve dedicated staff members to collaborate with one another to facilitate the efficient exchange of information and rapid resolution of issues. The bureau has also been in communication with Maine’s Department of Labor, sharing resources for use in responding to questions from businesses or their employees.

Throughout this process, LePage and his staff have been updated and have shared the bureau’s commitment to helping Maine people in understanding their insurance options and how to obtain coverage. Understandably, the governor’s office has looked to the bureau to play the lead role in informing and assisting the public.

The bureau will continue to serve as state government’s primary source of information and point of contact regarding private health insurance. We will continue to share updates with the public through the news media, online and in other ways, and we’ll do our best to answer questions.

The bureau can be reached by calling 800-300-5000, through email at Insurance.PFR@maine.gov or by mail at 34 State House Station, Augusta 04333.

Eric Cioppa is superintendent of the Maine Bureau of Insurance, a part of the Department of Professional and Financial Regulation.

http://bangordailynews.com/2013/10/06/opinion/contributors/how-state-government-is-helping-maine-figure-out-obamacare/ printed on September 19, 2014