Maine Legislature Overrides Governor’s Veto to Pass Preventive Health-Care Protections

The law requires Maine insurance companies to cover preventive care services in line with coverage under the Affordable Care Act without cost-sharing burdens. It follows a move in the state to enshrine the ACA's birth control benefit.

[Photo: Brochures for handling financial problems are seen in the waiting room]
The new law is among several bills meant to expand and protect access to health care in the state in the past two years. Dominick Reuter/AFP/Getty Images

Maine lawmakers on Wednesday overrode a veto from Republican Gov. Paul LePage to approve a new law protecting residents’ preventive health-care coverage as it is under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The move combats the Trump administration’s continued attacks on health-care access.

Sponsored by state Rep. Joyce McCreight (D-Harpswell), passage of LD 1476 comes months after Maine codified the ACA’s requirement that insurers offer no-co-pay birth control. The law requires health insurance to cover a list of essential preventive health-care services covered by the ACA without co-pays or other cost-sharing burdens. Coverage of such preventive services is required for all individual and group health insurance policies issued or renewed after Jan. 1, 2019.

“The bill we passed codifying the ACA’s projections for preventative care coverage is critical,” state Rep. Heather Sanborn, (D-Portland) told Rewire.News in an email. “It ensures that, no matter what actions might be taken at the federal level, Mainers will have access to crucial preventative care services through their insurance plans. We know that preventative care saves money and lives. Unfortunately, preventative care protections in the ACA could be easily eroded or eliminated by the Trump administration. We wanted to ensure that Mainers would be protected if that happened.”

The Act To Ensure Continued Coverage for Essential Health Care passed overwhelmingly in the Maine State Legislature by a vote of 115-34 in the house last week and 30-4 in the state Senate on Wednesday, overriding Gov. LePage’s veto

LePage has long opposed the ACA and has threatened not to expand Medicaid despite a binding ballot initiative that passed in November, mandating expansion.

The vote makes it clear that support for preventive care coverage is “widespread and bipartisan” in Maine, Sandborn said.

Coverage of essential preventive measures such as newborn care, vaccinations, wellness screenings for children, breast cancer screenings, Pap tests, birth control, blood pressure and sexually transmitted infection testing are important for families to enjoy good health and for employers to rely on a healthy workforce, McCreight told Rewire.News in an email.

“Access to preventative health care is crucial. By access to cancer screenings, immunizations, [and] annual exams, we’re much better able to detect and treat problems earlier and to achieve much better outcomes …. Codifying these essential services in Maine law means we won’t lose them regardless of any changes in the ACA,” she said.

The new law is among several bills meant to expand and protect access to health care in the state. Last year, Maine voters approved a ballot initiative to expand Medicaid and lawmakers passed a measure to allow a 12-month supply of birth control. Advocates celebrated the passage of the new law as an indication of the momentum sweeping state legislatures across the US to expand access to reproductive health care.

“The Trump-Pence administration has spent the last 14 months undermining our health, our rights, and our freedoms. And people across the country are not having it. We’re going to keep fighting in Maine and all across the country to ensure everyone has access to the health care they need—no matter what,” said Dawn Laguens, executive vice president, Planned Parenthood Federation of America, in a statement.

The act is considered “a game changer” for Maine women and families, said Nicole Clegg, vice president of Public Policy for Planned Parenthood of Northern New England and the Planned Parenthood Maine Action Fund.

The override of LePage’s veto comes after Washington state lawmakers enacted a law last week covering maternity care, including abortion care and contraception, Utah expanding in January a Medicaid family planning program for families with low incomes, and New Jersey lawmakers restoring seven years of cuts to Planned Parenthood’s funding.