Bill to eliminate Medicare and private health insurance for Mainers, turn over control to state will have hearing

Rep. Michael Sylvester, a self-described socialist and Democrat State Representative, is proposing a bill to implement a single-payer health care program in Maine that would move all Mainers into the same state run program.

AUGUSTA – If you like your private health insurance, Medicare or other federal health coverage plan, you can’t keep it, says a bill being proposed by Rep. Michael Sylvester of Portland. Sylvester, a self-described socialist and registered Democrat will present the bill to the Legislature’s Health Coverage, Insurance and Financial Services Committee on Thursday, May 9th in Augusta.

The bill, L.D. 1617 intends to create a “single-payer health care program” across Maine.

It is light on details in some areas while outlining a framework of mandatory coverage it says the program will provide and the appointment of a group of bureaucrats who will be paid to create the program. That group of bureaucrats would be tasked with writing additional legislation to turn over control of federal health care programs to the state of Maine, among other things.

It does, however, contain very specific details in how it will eliminate all other forms of health insurance and health care coverage across the state.

In three phases, the program would take over the health care of all Maine people. The first phase would begin in January of 2022, with the second phase kicking in January of 2024 and the final phase in January of 2026.

The bill also explicitly says the state of Maine will take over federal health care programs, by appointing a task force to write legislation to, “Transfer responsibility for administering any other state or federal health care program to the Maine Single-payer Health Care Program;” by January 15, 2021.

That legislation would be written immediately after legislation moving all recipients of Maine’s Medicaid and children’s health care coverage into the program.

If there is any doubt about the totality of the plan to take control of all federal health care programs, the next step in the plan is to capture the funding for all those programs. The proposal says the next step is, “Apply for all waivers, exemptions and approvals from State Government and the Federal Government that are necessary to transfer health care funding from the Federal Government and from any state departments and agencies to the Maine Single-payer Health Care Program;”

The state of Vermont learned in their failed endeavor to enact a single-payer program, it is only truly a single-payer program if funding for all Medicaid, Medicare and other programs are routed through a single-payer.

Some Mainers with better than average coverage are likely to lose some services in the interest of covering everyone, as the Design Requirements of the proposal say coverage is dependent on “if those services are necessary or appropriate for the prevention, diagnosis or treatment of, or maintenance or rehabilitation following, injury, disability or disease.” It does not attempt to align coverage with Medicare or any standards that most private insurers meet. It does seek waivers from the federal government for implementation of the plan.

This fundamentally means that the sixteen-member task force of the new program will determine what is covered and what is “necessary or appropriate.”

That sixteen-member task force would not be required to contain a single doctor or medical professional, instead being comprised of nine legislators (4 Senate, 5 House), two consultants from employers, one consultant from a hospital, two consultants from health care providers and two to represent consumers. Those sixteen individuals would be responsible for the design of the plan and bringing forward legislation to fully implement the program.

The program would also require, presumably, a huge new tax to generate the revenue needed to fund the program. Maine’s current per capita health care spending is almost certainly at least $13.7 billion per year, more than three times what the state of Maine currently spends in the entire state budget per year, according to calculations based on Kaiser Family Foundation data.

While the proposal by Rep. Sylvester would turn federal funds used for Medicare and other programs over to the state of Maine, it does not provide a specific funding mechanism to cover new enrollees or supplant the current private health care and health insurance funding across Maine.

Details for funding the program are left to the bureaucrats tasked with implementation through legislation in 2021 with the bill simply saying, “Establish an ongoing revenue stream to adequately fund the Maine Single-payer Health Care Program” in the section requiring legislation by January 15, 2021.

L.D. 1617 will have a public hearing before the Legislature’s Health Coverage, Insurance and Financial Services Committee on May 9th in Augusta. That public hearing will take place at 1pm in Room 220 of the Cross Building.

You can read the text of L.D. 1617 by clicking here.

In addition to Rep. Michael Sylvester (D – Portland) being the bill’s primary sponsor, it has been cosponsored by the following legislators:

Representative Donna Bailey (D – Saco)
Senator Shenna Bellows (D – Kennebec)
Representative Heidi Brooks (D – Lewiston)
Representative James Handy (D – Lewiston)
Representative Colleen Madigan (D – Waterville)
Representative Chloe Maxmin (D – Nobleboro)
Representative Rachel Talbot Ross (D – Portland)
Representative Denise Tepler (D – Topsham)
Representative Charlotte Warren (D – Hallowell)

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