AUGUSTA, Maine — Maine businesses are beginning to feel the impact of a health insurance overhaul law the Legislature passed earlier this year, with some companies seeing premium drops while others seeing their rates rise.
While it’s still early to gauge the full effect of the law, some patterns have emerged. Small businesses in rural, northern Maine tend to pay more while those in more urban southern areas pay less, according to a survey of more than 700 businesses by the Maine Bureau of Insurance. Some lawmakers had warned that could happen during debate over the bill.
Portland tech company Wixnet, which employs about 45 workers in their 20s and 30s, saw an 18 percent premium drop, while Mid-Maine Restoration in Edgecomb, with a slightly older work force of five, reported a 35 percent increase. Mid-Maine restores church steeples.
“We can’t absorb it, obviously,” Mid-Maine co-owner Lisa McSwain told the Portland Press Herald. “We’re a construction company in a recession. Even the fact that we’ve stayed in business is miraculous.”
The bill overhauling many provisions of Maine’s health care laws was passed by the Republican-controlled Legislature after extended partisan debate. The part that has had an impact so far eases rules on insurance carriers that sell group policies to companies with fewer than 50 workers.
It took effect in October. Other provisions will kick in during the next few years.
Among them are $4 charges on all Maine policyholders to cover the cost of high-risk individual policies, and giving businesses the go-ahead to shop out-of-state for coverage plans.
The Maine State Chamber of Commerce, which was neutral on the overhaul, said it’s too early to understand the full impact of the law.