AUGUSTA — Negotiations between Republican and Democratic leaders Tuesday over a GOP plan to overhaul Maine’s health insurance system failed to produce a compromise, so the partisan battle is expected to continue today on the floor of the Senate.

The House voted 79-68 Tuesday to send L.D. 1333 to the Senate. Every Republican voted for the bill plus one Democrat, Rep. Stephen Hanley of Gardiner.

During the floor debate, Minority Leader Emily Cain, D-Orono, urged Republicans to compromise with Democrats on the bill.

“It’s not too late for us to go back and work together, Mr. Speaker,” she said, addressing House Speaker Robert Nutting, a Republican from Oakland. “The best work, we do together. By that standard, L.D. 1333 is not our best work.”

The Senate was expected to take up the bill for the first time Tuesday. But during a Republican caucus in the morning, several senators had questions about the bill, said Sen. Thomas Saviello, R-Wilton.

He said late Tuesday that he expects to vote for the bill, but was pleased that the vote was delayed a day because he would have more time to study it.

Sen. Roger Sherman, R-Houlton, also asked for more time. He said he regretted voting for the Dirigo Health Act in 2003 because it has fallen far short of what its proponents promised. He said he doesn’t want to make that mistake again.

“I’m no longer a kid,” he said. “I don’t like the idea of voting on any idea I don’t understand.”

The 45-page, Republican-backed bill would overhaul the health insurance market for about 40,000 people — those who buy independently or through employers whose companies have 50 or fewer workers. It would affect almost every policyholder in the state because it would be funded by a tax on premiums of as much as $4 per person per month.

The bill would give insurance companies more leeway in how much they can charge policyholders based on age and place of residence.

Saviello and Sherman said they have questions about a provision that would repeal Rule 850, a section of Maine’s insurance code that requires insurers’ provider networks to have primary care physicians within a 30-minute drive of policyholders’ homes, and hospitals within an hour’s drive.

Critics say that repealing Rule 850 would force people in northern Maine and other rural areas to drive long distances for medical care and affect the viability of hospitals in rural areas.

Saviello said he wants to make sure that the bill wouldn’t hurt Franklin Memorial Hospital in Farmington, where he serves on the board of directors.

On Tuesday afternoon, a group of Democratic and Republican leaders met in the office of Senate President Kevin Raye, R-Perry, to consider amendments to the bill.

Sen. Justin Alfond, D-Portland, who attended the meeting, said Republicans rejected the Democrats’ primary objective: to delay a vote until the Maine Bureau of Insurance completes an actuarial study that will determine the bill’s effect on policyholders.

Republicans aren’t interested in the study, Alfond said. “It appears they are going to move ahead blindly,” he said.

Senate Majority Leader Jonathan Courtney said Republicans are open to ideas to improve the bill, but aren’t interested in “delaying tactics.” He said he expects the Senate will vote today.

“We are still listening,” he said. “I am hopeful that we will get some bipartisan support in the Senate. Time will tell.”

MaineToday Media State House Writer Tom Bell can be contacted at 699-6261 or at: [email protected]