Under legislation signed by Governor Mills, average health care premiums for small businesses in Maine will fall for the first time since at least 2001
Maine succeeds in reversing trend of health insurance premium increases for many small businesses and reduces proposed premium increase in individual market as health insurer rates are finalized for plan year 2023
Governor Janet Mills today announced that small businesses in Maine will see their first average annual health insurance premium reduction since at least 2001.
According to final weighted average rates (PDF) filed by health insurance companies and approved by the Maine Bureau of Insurance for plan year 2023, premiums for the small group market – which serves employers of 50 workers or less – will decrease by 0.8%, a reduction from an originally proposed increase of 3.42%.
This is the first time that average health insurance premiums have fallen in the small group market since at least 2001, when these rates began to be tracked consistently, and it is a direct result of the law. Governor Mills’ Made for Maine Health Coverage Act, which merged the small group and individual markets and extended Maine Guaranteed Access Reinsurance Association (MGARA) protections to the small group market. The federal government approved the merger through Maine’s first state innovation waiver in July 2022.
The reduction in Maine comes as average small group premiums in many other northeastern states will rise, including Rhode Island (PDF) by an average of 11.5% (based on preliminary filings), the Vermont (PDF) from 11.7 to 18.3 on average. percent, in Connecticut by an average of 14.8 percent, and in New York by an average of 7.9 percent.
Meanwhile, the final increase in weighted average prices in the individual market is 11.4%, a reduction from the originally proposed average increase of 14.72%. But thanks to the extension of the American Rescue Plan’s expanded eligibility for premium tax credits through the Inflation Reduction Act, more people than ever in Maine are now eligible. to financial assistance, which will largely protect them from these higher premiums.
Federal tax credits limit the maximum contribution that eligible consumers pay to a percentage of their income, which protects them against premium increases. According to the White House (PDF), through expanding premium credits, 59,000 Maine residents could save hundreds in health insurance premiums, including 15,000 small business owners and self-employed people who purchase individual coverage. Additionally, 14,000 more Maine residents could get health insurance next year than they would without the new law. These health insurance premium tax credits are available through CoverME.gov.
As individual rates increase significantly across the country for plan year 2023 for a number of reasons, such as the continued impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and inflation, the innovation waiver of the state of Maine has mitigated the impact of these influences. Without the waiver, prices would have increased by an average of 14.7% in the individual market and by an average of 12% in the small group market.
“Through the legislation I proposed and signed, we are reversing the trend of steadily rising health insurance costs for many small businesses for the first time since at least 2001. This is a victory for many many small businesses in Maine and their hardworking employees who rely on the small group market for health insurance, and the timing couldn’t be better.While small businesses in Maine grapple with high costs due to inflation , it’s one less thing they’ll have to worry about,” said Governor Janet Mills. “I am proud of this progress under our leadership. It builds on my Jobs Plan initiative which also lowers costs for small businesses and their employees, and it sends a message to Maine small business owners and those looking to start businesses here that we will do everything we can to support you.
“Governor Mills asked us from the start to take action to help small business owners provide affordable health insurance for their workers,” said Jeanne Lambew, Commissioner of Health and Social Services. “This strong result for small businesses is a result of the collaboration between the Bureau of Insurance and the Office of the Health Insurance Marketplace, bipartisan support from the Maine State Legislature, our partnership with insurance companies of Maine and the Governor’s consistent and strong leadership. ”
“The adjusted premium rates are very encouraging and show the positive impact of the merged market, especially for the small group market, which has been trending towards strong increases over the past few years,” said Timothy Schott, acting superintendent of the Bureau of Insurance.
Signed into law in March 2020, Governor Mills’ Made for Maine Health Coverage Act helps increase coverage and lower premiums, saving individuals and small business employees money on health care costs. Health care.
“From day one, our goal has been to make health care more affordable and accessible for working families, small business owners and older Mainers. Together, we’ve enshrined basic patient protections in state law, passed laws to reduce the cost of prescription drugs and improve access to lifesaving medicines, and worked to bring stability, efficiency, and affordability to the marketplace. health insurance, said Senate Speaker Troy Jackson, D-Allagash. “Today’s news proves that we are moving in the right direction and delivering for Maine residents and small businesses. We still have a long way to go, but please know that I will continue to do my best to that every Mainer can get the health care they deserve.
“Governor Mills and her team have worked proactively to make health care more affordable. The news about cost savings for employers is important. Employers want to do everything they can to recruit and retain employees, so benefits like health insurance are essential,” said President Ryan Fecteau of Biddeford. “I commend Governor Mills’ team and the experts at the Maine Bureau of Insurance for having the foresight and creativity to bring forward the medical coverage law designed for Maine, and then working with the Legislature to support it. . It was a wise decision that paid off. »
“As Senate Chairman of the Legislature’s Health Coverage, Insurance, and Financial Services Committee, I have spent the past four years working to make it easier for people in Maine to access health care coverage. affordable health care and ensuring that small business owners, like me, can afford health care plans for their employees. I have also seen firsthand how the cost of health care has become a huge challenge for small businesses across the state, which is why I was proud to join my colleagues in the Legislative Assembly and the Mills administration on a new law aimed at reducing costs for small businesses and employees “, said Sen. Heather Sanborn, D-Portland. “By merging the individual and group health insurance markets, we have sought to reduce premiums for those insured through their small business employer, make it easier to offer insurance for small businesses, and stabilize the market. I am thrilled that Maine residents and businesses are finally starting to take advantage of these savings.
“Our committee has stood with consumers and small businesses, honoring their experiences and needs in our efforts to make insurance more affordable. This kind of cost saving impact is not easy to achieve, but this milestone shows that we are on a worthwhile path,” said Denise Tepler of Topsham, House Chair of the Legislature’s Health Coverage, Insurance and Financial Services Committee. “Making progress on affordability was our goal. Today we have proof that it works, with insurance costs for small businesses falling.
Under the law, Maine became the first state in the nation under the Affordable Care Act’s 1332 waiver program to provide federally backed reinsurance to small employers and individuals. The MGARA, supported by federal funding and contributions from health insurers, pays a portion of the cost of the most expensive health bills, lowering and stabilizing health insurance premiums. Maine received approval from the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services for the waiver on July 15, 2022.
The Made for Maine Health Coverage Act builds on work the Mills administration has also done to make health coverage more affordable for small businesses in Maine. In 2021, Governor Mills dedicated $39 million through her Maine Jobs and Recovery Plan to launch the Small Business Health Insurance Premium Relief Program which lowers the cost of monthly health insurance premiums for small businesses and their employees. .
Under this program, health insurers receive financial assistance to reduce premiums for their small business customers by $50 per covered worker per month and up to $130 per month for family coverage. The program is expected to continue until April 2023.
Maine individuals and families, as well as small businesses, can learn more about their coverage options at Maine’s marketplace, CoverME.gov, the one-stop-shop for comprehensive major medical coverage backed by protections. federal and state.