AUGUSTA, Maine — Maine would require insurers to cover COVID-19 testing costs and expand the number of people able to administer vaccines under a measure easily passed by the Legislature early Friday.
The passage of the “COVID-19 Patient Bill of Rights” was a victory for Senate President Troy Jackson, D-Allagash, and Maine House Speaker Ryan Fecteau, D-Biddeford. It was LD 1, the first bill formally unveiled during the 2021 session, a designation that signals a major priority for leaders. It now goes to Gov. Janet Mills, who is likely to sign it.
It comes as new coronavirus cases remain relatively flat in Maine, despite falling nationally. Cases virtually everywhere have declined since a major surge ended in January as vaccine distribution ramps up and states begin to map out reopenings. Mills, a Democrat, announced a plan last week to allow more travel and ease capacity restrictions ahead of the tourism season.
“The COVID-19 Patient Bill of Rights is key to getting us through this crisis and a post-COVID world,” Jackson said in a statement.
The bill is the first COVID-19 policy-related piece of legislation passed in the Legislature this year. It requires health insurance providers to cover COVID-19 screening, testing and vaccine costs. It also does not allow an out-of-network provider to charge a patient the difference of what their insurance would cover.
Providers would be required to provide notice on any upfront charges. It also looks to expand the number of people able to give vaccines and includes a provision allowing for doctors to prescribe an extended amount of medications during a state of emergency.
Maine already covers testing charges at its “swab and send” sites and rapid tests through its partnership with Walgreens. Medicare and Medicaid providers are required to cover testing along with doctor’s visits during a federal state of emergency thanks to two federal laws passed nearly a year ago. Vaccines distributed by the federal government are currently given free of charge to Americans, but the new state law aims to ensure no changes down the line.