When I was first elected to represent you in Augusta, I definitely felt some uncertainty. Things like “Will I be able to do what I set out to do?” to “Where do I even park my truck at the State House?” would cross my mind. However, what I was certain of was that I wanted to help Mainers to the best of my ability.

Joe Rafferty Courtesy photo

One of the ways we have been able to do that is by improving Maine’s health care system. That’s why I want to share some of the good work my colleagues and I did this year to expand access to health care, emergency services and insurance coverage. And speaking of coverage, the ACA open enrollment window is approaching, so be sure to read on to learn more.

In the Legislature, my colleagues and I know that to solve the root of many problems, we need to consider long-term strategies. That’s why we passed a new law that directs the Office of Affordable Health Care to study what barriers currently exist to decreasing health care costs in Maine. The office and legislators will then use that information to find ways we can lower costs and improve care for everyone — from small businesses to individuals.

To make sure Mainers are getting a fair deal when it comes to their insurance coverage, we required dental insurance companies to report their medical loss ratio, which ensures patients’ money is going toward their care and not into the pockets of CEOs. We also took aim at supporting ALS research. This disease still has no known cause, but that doesn’t mean we can’t find a way to cure or prevent it. I am proud to say that we created a database of ALS diagnoses here in Maine, and that data will help patients and researchers get us closer to our goal of finding a cure.

We also recognized that our hospitals and EMS departments needed our help, especially in rural Maine. To keep hospitals open all across the state, we invested $25 million in these facilities so folks can continue to get care when they need it most. I am also proud to announce that we created a commission to examine the structure, support and delivery of emergency medical services in Maine and make recommendations on how the state can better support our first responders.

The goal of this commission is simple: to do all we can to ensure Mainers can continue to get emergency medical services that we all rely on in our greatest moment of need. I applaud our EMS workers and promise I will continue to fight for them in the Legislature. This commission is poised to report its findings in early December, and I am eager to see what comes of this.

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We also found ways to increase access to fertility treatments, postpartum care and contraceptives by requiring coverage of these treatments in insurance plans. Mainers should be in full control of deciding when the time is right for them to start a family, and they should have all the support they need after their babies are born.

We also wanted to make sure that those who rely on life-saving medications can get them when they need them. A new law allows pharmacists to dispense an emergency supply of a chronic maintenance drugs, such as rescue inhalers for asthma, to patients without a prescription, as long as the patient has a history of receiving that medication. This bill will save lives.

Finally, I want to share some information on the upcoming ACA open enrollment window. Open enrollment is the annual window during which people can sign up for Affordable Care Act-compliant health insurance. If you already have coverage, this is also an opportunity to make changes to your current plan.

It’s the only time during the year outside of a special enrollment period that Americans can sign up for a plan or switch to a different plan. Open enrollment for 2023 coverage runs from Nov. 1, 2022 through Jan. 15, 2023. You can learn more by visiting CoverME.gov.

As always, if you have any questions about the information here or would like to reach out with another comment, question or concern, you can reach out to me at any time. If you want to stay even more up to date on what we’re working on in Augusta, sign up for my email newsletter at mainesenate.org.

Joseph Rafferty is a member of the Maine State Senate representing District 34, Acton, Kennebunk, Lebanon, North Berwick, Wells and part of Berwick. He can be reached at [email protected] or 207-590-9902.

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