When Maine’s paid family and medical leave program begins paying benefits in May 2026, it will be the 13th state to do so. Maine is fortunate to build from the strong foundation that other states have developed, while at the same time ensuring the program works for Maine workers and Maine businesses. One common theme shared by the most successful programs is a commitment to forging a strong public-private partnership between the state plan and the existing private insurance plan market.

To accomplish this here in Maine, recently proposed regulations implementing this program need to be amended.

At Unum, our experience and commitment to helping the working world thrive dates back 175 years. Unum’s financial protection and workplace benefits cover nearly 45 million people and their families and pay nearly $8 billion in benefits annually. In our experience as the nation’s leading short-term and long-term disability insurer, state paid family and medical leave programs have become an important part of how we serve our customers as they navigate the complexity of the ever-changing leave landscape.

In states such as Massachusetts, Connecticut, Oregon, and New York, employers may select private insurance plans to satisfy the requirements of the state’s paid family and medical leave law. Maine too will allow for private plans, and these plans must be equivalent or better than the state standards and subject to oversight from both the Maine Department of Labor and Bureau of Insurance.

However, recently proposed rules would make Maine an outlier by requiring that every Maine employer contribute to a state fund on January 1, 2025, regardless of their intent to seek private coverage for their employees.

Not only would this proposal be extremely costly for employers already providing generous benefits today, but it would require 16 months of payroll contributions to a program that their employees would never benefit from if the employer seeks a private equivalent plan. Simply put, the current proposal threatens the viability of the private option in Maine and would restrict an employer’s ability to choose the path that works best for their employees.

Unum actively engaged with Maine policymakers throughout this process with one common goal – establish a program that works for all Mainers, minimizing the burden to employers while ensuring that people are protected financially when they need it most. This is core to our mission, and we are proud to lend our expertise to help our home state build a strong and sustainable program.

The Maine Department of Labor should consider following the successful example of several states by allowing employers to declare their intent to seek private equivalent plan coverage prior to the January 2025 contribution start date. This model also allows employers to apply for private plan exemptions on a quarterly basis once they’re ready to make an informed decision about their plan options. Private plans are key to reducing the financial and administrative burden on the state program, give employers flexibility to maintain long-lasting relationships with trusted carriers and encourage even more generous benefit offerings for Maine workers.

As one of Maine’s largest employers and an industry-leading provider of these important benefits, we are eager to work in partnership with the state on behalf of our nearly 3,000 Maine employees, our Maine customers and all Maine workers to get this right together.

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