By Carla Anderson
February 11, 2014
The number of individuals who selected a health plan through the federal marketplace increased from 1,747 at the end of November to 13,704 as of Dec. 28. An additional 3,236 qualified for Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). Eighty-seven percent of those selecting a health plan qualified for subsidies to help pay the cost of their premiums, compared to 79 percent nationally. The percentage of 18 to 34 year-olds signing up in Maine was among the lowest in the nation — just 18 percent compared to 24 percent nationally. Signups among that age group are considered vital to keeping insurance costs from jumping up in 2015 and beyond.
Enrollment for private insurance in 2014 continues through March 31. Policies purchased by the 15th of the month will be effective the first day of the following month. Individuals who remain uninsured after March may face a tax penalty of $95 or one percent of income, whichever is greater. Enrollment for Medicaid or CHIP continues throughout the year.
Maine’s health insurance marketplace is operated by the federal government. Gov. Paul LePage announced the state’s decision against a state-run model in November 2012. In a letter to U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, LePage said the Affordable Care Act has “severe legal problems” and state-run exchanges will be “actually controlled” by the federal government.
LePage’s administration did explore creating a state-run exchange. The governor appointed an advisory committee, and in September 2011 that committee recommended that Maine implement a state-run exchange. The committee also issued recommendations as to how the exchange should be structured and governed. However, Maine ultimately joined the Supreme Court case that attempted to overturn the Affordable Care Act, and the state legislature failed to pass exchange legislation in both 2011 and 2012.
Two insurers are offering policies through the marketplace in Maine: Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield and Maine Community Health Options (MCHO). Nationally, the average is eight insurers per state.
According to a report released by HHS, the average cost for a bronze plan —the lowest-cost option — in Maine is $328 a month. That’s much higher than the national average of $249 a month for a bronze policy. Health insurance has traditionally been expensive in Maine due to the state’s rural nature, high average age, and few insurers. While the marketplace may ultimately trigger more competition, the other underlying cost drivers will remain.
According to HHS, about 145,000 Maine residents (13 percent of the state population) are uninsured and eligible to use the marketplace.
State Exchange Profile: Maine
The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation overview of Maine’s progress toward creating a state health insurance exchange.
Let your Maine governor and legislators know how you feel about the state’s proposed health insurance exchange.Maine Governor Paul LePage