Every single one of us — moms, dads, kids, babies, grandparents, workers, business owners, homeless people, veterans and every single other group of people — without exception, needs and deserves access to high-quality, affordable health care.

Unfortunately, that is not how things always work. Studies show that not only does the United States spend more on health care than other developed countries, it also has worse outcomes than other countries. We have seen the cost of certain needed prescription drugs skyrocket in recent years, and we have a complicated health insurance system that allows companies to interfere with care.

Mix these ingredients together, and what you get is a system that works sometimes for some people, favors the wealthy, and creates a lot of confusion and frustration for everyone involved. Improving this system is a difficult task that takes many different entities working together to get the job done. In the Legislature, we have passed several new laws and funded programs that will help more people get the health care they need.

We passed a suite of laws to lower and regulate the price of prescription drugs. One of the laws creates a Prescription Drug Affordability Board that will give consumers a voice in drug pricing, curb public spending and help drive down costs. Another holds accountable corporate middlemen, who pocket savings that are supposed to go to customers. A third law requires drug companies to share information on costs related to drug production, marketing, advertising and consumer price.

The fourth law in this package allows Maine to wholesale import safe and low-cost prescription drugs from Canada. The Trump Administration recently announced that they would seek to explore options to implement a similar program. Maine’s leadership on this pressing issue has spurred bipartisan federal action.

The new budget that we passed includes funds for the expansion of MaineCare to provide low- or no-cost health insurance to hardworking Mainers and families in need. We passed a law that enshrines the patient protections in the Affordable Care Act in state law, so that even if the federal government walks back on its promise to ensure coverage for people with pre-existing conditions, or to let children stay on their parents health insurance until they turn 26, Mainers will be protected. We mandated that insurance companies cover telehealth services provided over the phone or video conferencing technology, the same as they would a similar service performed in person. These reforms will ensure more folks have access to the care that they need.

Insurance is a big part of the equation as well. A new law we passed will restrict short-term health plans, also known as “junk” plans, which trick folks into buying faulty coverage. We took action to eliminate the red tape from insurance companies to ensure that decisions about coverage and care are made by medical professionals with relevant expertise, instead of insurance company bureaucrats. Finally, we funded a program to provide support to folks trying to navigate the health insurance marketplace.

The work is certainly not over, but these are all real steps toward a better system that works for everyone.

If you have any questions or comments, I’d be happy to hear from you. I can be reached by email at James.Dill@legislature.maine.gov or by phone at (207) 287-1515. I work for you, and you have a right to hold me accountable.

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