AUGUSTA — The Senate on Thursday killed a bill that would have authorized a study into whether government-run health care is feasible in the state, with opponents cautioning against any move toward a new system just days after significant insurance changes were already enacted.
The Senate vote was 19-16 on the bill, which updates past studies and surfaced in Maine as Vermont moves toward a single-payer system that would provide public health care to all residents, regardless of income, much like what military personnel have now.
Supporters of the proposed Maine study said that the state would have incurred no expense and that the study would not commit it to any new system.
“All the bill does is it gives us a chance to run the numbers,” said Sen. Philip Bartlett II, D-Gorham. “Why are we afraid of that study? Are we afraid to learn something new?”
Fellow Democratic Sen. Joseph Brannigan of Portland also spoke in favor of the study, saying a single-payer system covering many Mainers — Medicare — is already in effect.
“I am of the age where the government runs my insurance, and does it very well,” said Brannigan, who is 79.
Gov. Paul LePage signed a bill Tuesday that creates a new high risk pool, expands coverage options for smaller businesses and makes other changes in Maine’s largely privately run insurance system.
Sen. Lois Snowe-Mello, R-Poland, said past studies have shown a single-payer system to be “totally unaffordable.”
“We are moving toward an excellent plan,” Snowe-Mello added.
Vermont, meanwhile, is moving toward phasing out most private insurance in a universal health care system. A powerful new state board will work out details of the new system, including how to pay for it.