As a lawmaker, I have two major priorities: Responding to any crisis that arises, and addressing the challenges people in our community and state face on a daily basis. The cost of health care can fall into both categories, but especially the second one.

Health care is often expensive – and can dramatically impact a family’s budget, sometimes causing great stress and financial hardship. In the United States, health care costs remain higher than in other advanced, developed nations. Yet, everyone needs affordable, quality health care to stay healthy and strong, raise their families, and succeed at work. In fact, a staggering 100 million American adults carry medical debt. That’s why I’m proud of the work we did to expand access to and reduce the cost burden of health care on Maine families.

Anne Carney

Three health care bills I sponsored became law this session. LD 372, LD 1357 and LD 1781 will help protect the health of mothers and children, as well as reduce the financial strain doctor’s bills and insurance premiums put on family budgets here in Senate District 29 and across our state.

Funded through the budget, LD 372 makes several changes to the Cub Care program, to fully implement the federal Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) and improve coverage for Maine children and pregnant women. Those changes include raising the maximum eligibility level for family income from 200 percent of the federal poverty level to 300 percent of the federal poverty level; eliminating the three-month waiting period for enrollment after the loss of employer-based coverage; expanding coverage through ages 19 and 20; and eliminating premium payments.

LD 1357 ensures that maternity benefits provided by health insurers include coverage for 12 months of postpartum care that meets the recommendations of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. This applies to both individual and group contracts issued by insurers and health maintenance organizations.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists issued a Committee Opinion in May 2018 and affirmed in 2021, titled “Optimizing Postpartum Care.” The opinion adopts a new framework for postpartum care as an ongoing process, rather than a single encounter at six weeks post-birth, and requires that services and support be tailored to the patient’s individual needs. This new framework is often referred to as “fourth trimester” care.

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LD 1781 made a similar change to postpartum coverage for those insured through MaineCare. Beginning Aug. 1, coverage will extend for a full 12 months after delivery, instead of just eight weeks. Access to care during this medically vulnerable time will give new moms better health outcomes and reduce the risk of maternal mortality. The health of their infants will be improved and coverage can provide treatment for smoking cessation and substance use disorder during a time that women might experience relapse.

Giving children and new parents a healthy start is absolutely vital, and this year Maine took great strides toward ensuring that health coverage is affordable and comprehensive for Maine families. Much of this new coverage uses federal health care dollars that Maine was leaving on the table. These three bills, taken together, will do incredible work to help Mainers get the care they need, cope with the costs of inflation, and stay healthy.

I’m so pleased with the work we’ve done this year to make health care more accessible and affordable for Mainers. During these challenging times, we’re improving economic security and providing the health care children and new moms need for Maine families to thrive.

As always, I am deeply honored to represent you and your family in Augusta. If you need help with or want to share your ideas with me, call 207-287-1515 or send an email to [email protected] I’d be happy to hear from you.

Anne Carney represents Maine Senate District 29, which consists of Cape Elizabeth, South Portland and part of Scarborough. She can be reached at 207-287-1515 or [email protected]

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