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Maine passes broad health bill

By Associated Press
© St. Petersburg Times
published June 14, 2003

AUGUSTA, Maine - Maine lawmakers gave final approval Friday to a bill to create one of the nation's most far-reaching health insurance plans.

In the 151-member House, 105 members voted in favor. The Senate approved the measure 25-8, allowing the state to start organizing the program in 90 days. It is expected to take effect next year.

Democratic Gov. John Baldacci is expected to sign the bill next week, spokesman Lee Umphrey said. The plan would create a quasi-public agency to help people secure medical coverage through private insurers.

Under the plan, all 180,000 people in Maine who cannot otherwise afford health care coverage would have access to it by 2009. Participants would be charged subsidized premiums that would vary according to their ability to pay and the amount of coverage purchased.

Funding would come from a patchwork of sources, including a tax on insurance companies and $80-million the state expects to save each year by eliminating unreimbursed medical costs run up by uninsured people.

The legislation aims to hold down the runaway costs of medical care with voluntary price caps for providers, hospitals and insurers, and a limit on nonhospital outpatient procedures.

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