AUGUSTA — Gov. Paul LePage today signed into law the ambitious GOP health insurance reform bill, L.D. 1333.

“It was a tough-fought battle,” he said. “I’m proud of the Republican leadership for staying there and working this through.”

LePage signed the bill into law at a table set up in the Hall of Flags of the State House, with about 75 Republican lawmakers standing behind him.

House Speaker Robert Nutting, R-Oakland, said the bill will lower the cost of health insurance, something Republicans have been trying to do for many years. He praised legislators for standing up to “scare tactics” and “special interests.”

“This is a great day for the state of Maine,” Nutting said.

The Maine Democratic Party today sent out press release that called the bill “one of the most stunning broken promises in Maine political history.”

The 45-page bill overhauls the health insurance market for about 40,000 people – those who buy independently or through employers whose companies have 50 or fewer workers.

It affects almost every policyholder in the state because it will add a tax on premiums of as much as $4 per person per month, to help cover people with high medical costs.

Democrats noted that Republicans for years have opposed any kind of tax increase and are now imposing a $24 million tax after only five months in power.

Ben Grant, Maine Democratic Party chairman, said that Republicans in the past have supported requiring a two-thirds vote of the Legislature to raise any taxes, as well as a statewide referendum. In addition, L.D. 1333 empowers an unelected board to raise an additional $12 million, Grant said.

“Can Maine people afford to trust anything Governor LePage and the Maine GOP says ever again?” Grant asked.

In an interview after signing the bill, LePage said the $4 assessment is a relatively small amount of money compared to the considerable savings that many Maine families will enjoy. He said a family of four is now paying $1,400 a month for health insurance, and the bill will lower the costs by 30 to 40 percent.

“I will tell you this. My recommendation is: Let’s see it take effect and see if the cost goes up.”