Monday, March 10, 2014
Over the weekend, I chatted with a fellow parent about her two girls in college. With classes ending shortly, both students are searching for summer jobs in Maine. Beyond school, the mom worries about her daughters’ chances to find good jobs here in Maine close to family.
How many times have we Maine parents shared these concerns with each other? For too many years, our children and grandchildren have been forced to leave the state they love because of limited opportunities here in Maine. Left behind is an aging population, an increasing number of who have a growing dependence of government services.
Two years ago, Augusta began changing the rules to lower the cost and complexity of living and running a business in Maine. In other states and countries, these incentives have proven to attract business investment that leads to more jobs, more economic freedom, and better lives.
For two decades, skyrocketing health insurance premiums drained Maine family budgets. They also stifled small business growth, resulting in fewer jobs for our workers. Maine’s new business-friendly initiative is, finally, addressing the unaffordable cost of health insurance.
In 2011, the Maine legislature enacted a law that encourages competition in our health insurance market. Its goal is, over time, to lower the monthly premiums paid by individuals and families, and by the companies that employ them.
In two short years, the positive impact of this new law is impressive. The graph below shows the small 2% and 3% premium increases during 2012 and 2013, respectively, compared with an average 13% rise since 1992 for individuals buying private health insurance. In many cases, monthly health insurance bills for this group are falling.
The dramatic slowing of health insurance costs shown above is attributable, in great part, to the new Maine law based on free market principles. Now, health insurance companies operating in Maine are allowed to charge lower premiums for younger, and presumably healthier, residents who rarely need medical treatment or a hospital visit. These younger Mainers are buying newly-created less expensive policies they can afford. These younger consumers are driving down the cost of health insurance for older people who consume more health care services.
For small businesses buying health insurance for their employees, monthly premium increases have also, on average, moderated substantially during the past two years. In many cases, health insurance costs for small companies have dropped, similar to the experience of individuals purchasing health insurance.
Unfortunately, some state legislators want to repeal this new Maine law just as it’s beginning to stabilize and reduce the cost of health insurance. Let’s ask our elected officials to put politics aside and do what is right to help reduce the cost of health insurance for the hard-working people of Maine, and for the companies that hire them. More money in the pockets of our families and their employers is good for Maine.
Bruce Poliquin is the former Maine State Treasurer and a 2012 Republican primary candidate for the United States Senate. He has 35 years of experience owning and managing businesses. Bruce is a proud third-generation Franco-American Mainer and Harvard University graduate. Visit BrucePoliquin.net for his most recent commentary and analysis on media outlets throughout the State about the important issues facing Maine families and their jobs.