Ten months ago, the first COVID-19 case was reported in Maine. Almost overnight, our lives were upended and our sense of normalcy shattered. Throughout it all, Mainers have shown resilience, but it hasn’t been easy. With each passing holiday, birthday or life event, it gets harder and harder to be apart.

Mainers are more than ready for their lives to go back to normal. Grandparents want to play with their grandkids. Children want to be able to visit and hug their parents again. That’s why we’re proud to introduce L.D. 1, An Act to Establish a COVID-19 Patient Bill of Rights. It takes basic steps to protect the health and safety of Mainers, and gets us closer to restoring our communities and economy.

Throughout our time in the Legislature, we’ve heard heartbreaking stories from Mainers about the rising cost of prescription drugs, complicated medical bills and the never-ending back-and-forth with insurance companies about the coverage of treatments and critical procedures. It’s why health care remained our top priority even before COVID-19 hit.

Where you live and how much money you make should never determine whether or not you can get the care you need, especially as our nation grapples with a deadly public health crisis. But health care remains out of reach for far too many people. It goes against our values and it stands in the way of getting our state and country safely on the road to recovery. With L.D. 1, more Mainers will be able to get the health care they need to protect themselves, their families and loved ones from this serious virus.

Our proposal would make a series of common-sense changes to Maine law that are desperately needed, given what we’ve learned responding to COVID-19. No Mainer should have to worry about taking on more debt to protect themselves from this virus.

This bill would require state-regulated health care plans to cover COVID-19 testing and screening in Maine and eliminate the co-pays for these services after the state of emergency has ended. The same coverage would apply for the COVID-19 vaccine.

After almost a year of battling this pandemic, there is a light at the end of the tunnel thanks to the COVID-19 vaccine. However, these lifesaving immunizations will only be lifesaving, if people can access them. The COVID-19 Patient Bill of Rights will eliminate barriers and ensure that health insurance companies can’t stand in the way of protecting Mainers.

This proposal also ensures that Mainers can access care during a state of emergency without risking their health to go to the doctor’s office or make frequent trips to the pharmacy. This is vital for seniors and Mainers with chronic conditions, whose health and safety are at greater risk in a public health crisis.

There is no question that COVID-19 is going to dominate our work in the Legislature this year. We’ve introduced the COVID-19 Patient Bill of Rights as the first order of business because it underscores the goals of this Legislature to put our patients first, prioritize the health and security of Maine people and prioritize businesses over megacorporations in this recovery.

All across the state, Mainers are reeling from the COVID-19 pandemic. It has threatened the health and safety of Mainers, disrupted our economy and hurt working families’ financial stability. As of this week, COVID-19 has claimed the lives of 449 Mainers. Each loss has been tremendous, as we’ve mourned parents, grandparents, teachers, coaches, veterans and beloved members of our community.

To us, this bill is personal. It is about doing everything we can for people to put an end to the loss and destruction. It’s also about making sure people don’t go months without seeing their parents again. It’s about making sure grandparents can play with their grandkids, or in some cases hold them for the very first time.

The only way to move forward and successfully rebuild our state is to make sure Maine people can get what they need to stay healthy, recover from this virus and get the best protection available going forward. The COVID-19 Patient Bill of Rights will set us on the best path for health and economic recovery.


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