AUGUSTA — In a party-line vote, the House today upheld the governor’s veto last week of an obscure health insurance bill that had previously won unanimous approval from the Legislature.

All 74 Republicans present voted to sustain the veto, and 69 Democrats and 1 independent voted to override it. Because the override attempt failed in the House, the Senate will not take it up. 

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

The bill, LD 1222, would have prevented insurers from requiring a health care provider to charge 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 unanimously approved the bill last month, and the House and Senate passed it without debate.

A vote of two-thirds of the House – 96 votes – is needed to override a governor’s veto and send a measure to the Senate, where another two-thirds vote is needed to override.

To win the support of Republican lawmakers so they would vote to sustain his veto, LePage on Wednesday reached a compromise with them. He said he would submit legislation that would have the same prohibitions as the original. However, it would also allow insurance companies to ask the state for a waiver.

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

“We will look into this issue more deeply next year,” said Rep. Jonathan McKane, a Republican from Newcastle who sits 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, and 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 that Gov. John Baldacci, a Democrat, had issued 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.”