AUGUSTA – In a party-line vote Thursday, the House upheld Gov. Paul LePage’s veto of an obscure health insurance bill that had won unanimous approval from the Legislature.

All 74 Republicans who were present voted to sustain the veto, while 69 Democrats and one independent voted to override it. Because the override attempt failed in the House, the Senate will not take it up. Two-thirds majorities are needed in both chambers to override a veto.

The veto last week was LePage’s first, and it caused problems within his own party. He never told Republicans in the Legislature about his intention to veto the bill, and some Republicans threatened to join Democrats in a vote to override it.

The bill, L.D. 1222, would have prohibited insurance companies from including “most favored nation” clauses in their contracts with health care providers.

A “most favored nation” clause requires a health care provider to give an insurance company the lowest rate the provider negotiates with any other insurance carrier.

Supporters said the bill would make the insurance market more competitive and help private practitioners stay in business. The Legislature’s Insurance and Financial Services Committee approved the bill unanimously last month, and the House and Senate passed it without debate.

To win Republican lawmakers’ support for sustaining his veto, LePage reached a compromise with them on Wednesday. He said he will propose legislation with the same prohibitions as the original bill. However, it would allow insurance companies to ask the state for waivers. Still to be determined is what conditions an insurer would have to meet to earn a waiver.

The Legislature will take up the governor’s bill in the next session.

“We will look into this issue more deeply next year,” said Rep. Jonathan McKane, a Republican from Newcastle who serves on the Insurance and Financial Services Committee.

Rep. Jon Hinck, a Democrat from Portland, said the House is a “separate body” from the executive branch, so he didn’t see why Republicans felt compelled to sustain the veto of the Republican governor. He urged them to hold to their principles and forget about partisan politics.

He recalled that he once voted to override a veto by Gov. John Baldacci, a Democrat, on a gambling bill that Hinck had supported.

“It worried me a little while, a half-hour or so,” he said. “I’m still standing. It felt good. I’d do it again.”

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

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