AUGUSTA — Sen. Susan Deschambault, D-Biddeford, testified last month in favor of the Patients First health care reform package, a suite of legislation that takes aim at our complicated health care system and its abusive billing practices. All four bills in the Patients First package received public hearings Tuesday before the Legislature’s Health Coverage, Insurance and Financial Services Committee.

“When a family walks into an emergency room with a sick child, their first thought is about the safety of their child, not anything else,” said Sen. Deschambault. “It is a travesty that after people receive health care, they unwittingly can be billed for the service of a medical professional not within their insurance network; for a unique treatment plan that is costly; or for a medication that there’s no chance they would be able to afford to refill every month. It’s important to support the Patients First health care reform package, because we need to advocate for Mainers and make sure no one gets an unexpected, costly medical bill.”

The four bills in the Patients First health care reform package are:

• LD 2110, An Act to Lower Health Care Costs (Pres. Jackson): The bill will allow Maine to take control of growing health care costs in a complicated health care system by creating the Maine Commission on Affordable Health Care. The Commission will hold all the players in the health care system accountable and establish a process for effective, data-driven reforms. Massachusetts’ commission saved patients and businesses $7.2 billion over five years.

• LD 2096, “An Act To Save Lives by Capping the Out-of-pocket Cost of Certain Medications” (Speaker Gideon): This legislation caps the amount patients in the individual and small group markets pay for life-saving insulin at $100. The average cost of insulin for treating type 1 diabetes in the United States nearly doubled over a five-year period, rising from $2,864 to $5,705 per person, per year.

• LD 2111, “An Act to Establish Patient Protections in Billing for Health Care” (Sen. Claxton): This bill would protect patients from abusive billing practices and unnecessary patient fees. It aims to protect patients from late medical bills, promote transparent billing, and provide cost information to patients before they receive care. Almost 70 percent of Americans are worried about unexpected medical bills.

• LD 2105, “An Act To Protect Consumers from Surprise Emergency Medical Bills” (Speaker Gideon): It protects patients from high-cost bills from out-of-network providers when they never had an opportunity to choose a cheaper option. A recent study shows that one in five inpatient emergency department cases may lead to surprise bills.

Last year, Maine Senate Democrats introduced a suite of bills that worked to reduce the cost of prescription medication for Mainers. The Patients First package continues and expands on this important work.

The four bills in the Patients First package will face further committee work before going to the Maine Senate and House for votes.

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