On Sept. 18, Mike Tipping’s column,

“Republicans said rates would fall with insurance law — didn’t happen,”

lashed out at Public Law 90, the health insurance overhaul that passed the Legislature last year.

This column is jam-packed with falsehoods and fabrications.

Let’s remember that the enabling legislation, LD 1333, passed both the House and Senate with bipartisan support, along with backing from the Senate’s only unenrolled member, Richard Woodbury. Three Democratic senators joined the winning side, including Bill Diamond, a veteran legislator and former secretary of state, Elizabeth Schneider and Nancy Sullivan, former co-chairwoman of the Insurance and Financial Services Committee.

They understood, as did Republicans, that this insurance reform was not experimental or revolutionary. It merely moved Maine into the American mainstream with rules that have been used successfully by most states for years — rules that encourage competition and lead to affordable policies.

Maine, conversely, had been stuck with one of the most expensive insurance markets in the nation, as well as the most heavily regulated. Some 130,000 Mainers had no insurance because they couldn’t afford it.

The crushing cost of health insurance contributed directly to the lack of jobs and Maine’s reputation as one of the worst places for business.

PL 90 is an attempt to curb the damage and move Maine forward with a much better system. We knew that reversing course would take time, because our insurance fiasco had been years in the making.

Yet success stories already are piling up. Just ask Sam Marcisso, who runs a 27-person plumbing and heating operation in South Portland. He was facing a 15 percent premium increase before PL 90 became law. Afterward, his rates fell by 18 percent, saving him enough to add a new employee and another vehicle.

Tipping’s column is part of a steady drumbeat of misinformation designed to denigrate PL 90 as election season hits full stride. We shouldn’t be surprised.

Tipping is the communications director for the Maine People’s Alliance, an ultra-liberal group that has worked for years for a government-run, publicly financed health care system. When that is your goal, any attempt to fix our insurance wreckage is a threat to your utopian vision.

Unfortunately, Tipping uses one falsehood after another to make his “case” against PL 90. Let’s consider a few whoppers.

Tipping states, “Republicans added a new $4 per month tax on everyone in Maine who has insurance, with the money raised going to the insurance companies.”

The truth is that the $4 assessment goes into a reinsurance trust fund to make sure people with expensive or chronic conditions can obtain insurance at reasonable rates. By virtue of this subsidy, everyone in the individual market benefits by rates that are falling — quite dramatically in many cases.

Moreover, the $4 assessment is less than half of the Dirigo Health tax, now being phased out, which provided no benefit to ratepayers.

Insurance companies don’t control the money; according to Tipping, however, they will pocket “the $22 million they’ll make on this new tax this year.” In fact, insurance companies have to pay an additional premium to the reinsurance fund in order to have a policyholder covered by the pool. It is an expense to insurers, not a check.

As for those rich insurance companies, all insurers selling individual policies in Maine lost money in 2011.

Tipping declares that “most of the effects of the legislation are now in place.” This is absolutely false. Much of the law has yet to take effect, including the bulk of the small group reforms and letting Mainers shop across state lines for policies that fit their needs and budgets.

Tipping calls PL 90 “a disaster, especially devastating to one of the most important parts of Maine’s economy, our small businesses.”

The fact is, the first two quarters of PL 90 data show that 10 percent of small companies are seeing decreases, compared to 3 percent a year ago, and nearly all others are seeing smaller increases than before. Small group reforms were never expected to eliminate all increases, not with health care inflation moving at a blistering pace.

The real problem yet to be solved is the skyrocketing cost of health care. PL 90 offers a potential solution for business groups.

It has allowed creation of the first health insurance association, MaineSense, a nonprofit that is beginning to address root health care costs. Several dozen businesses belong, including Lucas Tree Experts and CN Brown, the heating oil and Big Apple convenience store company. More join monthly.

MaineSense is a huge thorn in the side of the insurers. The last thing they want is companies dropping conventional insurance and managing their own program. This directly contradicts Tipping’s mantra that PL 90 is a gift to insurance companies.


Rep. Deborah Sanderson, R-Chelsea, serves on the Health and Human Services Committee and the Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee.

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