Maine’s top insurance regulator reflects on health care bill

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AUGUSTA — Maine already has many of the consumer protections included in the recently passed federal health care reform package, a top state insurance official said Monday.

“We have consumer protections that guaranteed access, and there’s already no discrimination based on gender or one’s health, so a lot of the market reforms that are in the federal bills, we have,” said Mila Kofman, Maine’s superintendent of insurance, to lawmakers during her reappointment confirmation.

Kofman was asked by a member of the Insurance and Financial Services Committee if additional state resources would be required to implement the new federal legislation.

“The federal bills also provide tremendous funding opportunities through grants and other sources to states to help states, including our state, do our job in fully and effectively, implementing the federal proposals as they go forward,” she said. “With that said, I think it will be critical for all of the state agencies to effectively coordinate the implementation and plan. I have asked folks on my team to start analyzing our own internal resources and (figure out) what we’ll have to do to effectively implement the new standards.”

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Though some of the new insurance reforms wouldn’t be new to Maine, Kofman said other aspects of the measure would have some immediate impacts.

“One piece of the reform that I am especially excited about is the immediate help that small businesses would get for tax year 2010; there is a 35 percent tax credit for certain size small businesses,” she said. “Businesses with fewer than 10 workers (would get) the largest portion of the 35 percent tax credit. That will kick in immediately, and it requires no action from us.”

State Rep. Sharon Treat, D-Hallowell, House chairwoman of the committee, said she hopes the full Legislature will support the creation of a task force to examine the impacts of the sweeping federal legislation.

“The committee voted out unanimously to create a task force to work over the summer and really look at some of these issues. That would be an opportunity to work with legislators and not just the administration,” she said. “I think it has been a partnership, and it’s going to continue to be a partnership, regardless of who sits in the governor’s seat in the future.”

Kofman was confirmed unanimously by the committee and must now be confirmed by the Senate.

rmetzler@sunjournal.com

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