Expanding access to affordable and high-quality health care is a top concern for many Mainers. As lawmakers in Augusta consider how to achieve this important goal, they should focus on building and improving on what works in our current health care system, not pursuing failed policies, some of which are outlined below, that could lead to unaffordable costs and threaten Mainers’ access to the high-quality care they need.

Unfortunately, some legislators in Augusta would take us in the wrong direction, as they work toward creating an unaffordable new state government-controlled health insurance system from scratch. Maine’s small businesses and families can’t afford the increased costs, higher taxes, and lack of access that would come with such an approach.

In Maine, small businesses are the underpinnings of our communities. As recently as 2019, more than 147,000 small business across the state employed nearly 290,000 of our neighbors. Lawmakers need to be mindful of the harmful consequences their actions could have on these job creators and the Mainers who depend on them.

The negative consequences of government-controlled health care would not be limited to small businesses. There could be severe implications for our rural communities and their access to quality care as well. Establishing a government-controlled system will cause serious financial strain for already-struggling rural hospitals. A 2019 Navigant study of the impact of government-controlled health insurance estimates that up to half of rural hospitals would be at risk of closure. Our communities depend on access to quality care, and the health of Mainers in rural communities could suffer as a result of this untried and untested new system.

Maine is not the first state where politicians have attempted to disrupt the health care system. There is a long list of states that have attempted, and ultimately failed, to create a state government-run system because of the unaffordable costs and other negative consequences. Our New England neighbor Vermont spent years and millions of dollars on a similar plan, only to abandon it because of the high cost. California is the most recent example, removing legislation from consideration this year because of a lack of support.

Washington became the first and only state to implement a state government-controlled “public option.” In February, Kaiser Health News and NPR reported on the system’s unaffordable costs and low enrollment.


In pushing their government-controlled system, politicians in Washington state argued it would lower premiums 5 to 10 percent compared to traditional plans. But in reality, these government-controlled health plans in 2021 were, on average, 11 percent higher than the lowest silver plan premium available in each county on the marketplace. Only 1 percent of people buying health insurance on the exchange in Washington chose a government-controlled plan. Why would we think replicating that failure in Maine would be good public policy?

Maine families and employers of all sizes and in all sectors across the state have been through so much over the last two years. We owe it to our small businesses and families not to burden them with higher health care costs, higher taxes or limited access to the doctors and health care they rely on.

Rather than put our health care system under government control, I encourage Maine lawmakers to work together to lower existing costs, improve our current system and increase awareness and participation in programs aimed at bringing quality, affordable health care coverage to more Maine residents.


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