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Maine House Votes for Consumer Advocacy Services

Press Release
CONTACT: Emily Brostek, Executive Director
Consumers for Affordable Health Care
(207) 622-7083, Ext. 1203 (Office)
(207) 778-1059 (Cell)

March 31, 2016

Maine House Votes for Consumer Advocacy Services
Bipartisan Medicaid Ombudsman Bill Passes Maine House of Representatives

AUGUSTA – The Maine House of Representatives voted today in support of a bill to require the Maine Department of Health and Human Services to contract with a Maine nonprofit to provide ombudsman services to people on MaineCare.

The bill, LD 1498, was supported by a bipartisan group of legislators with a vote of 114 to 32. 35 House Republicans joined all of the House Democrats, 2 Independent State Representatives, and 1 Un-enrolled State Representative in support of this bill.

“People are perplexed, bewildered, dazed and confused about their health coverage,” said Rep. Karen Vachon, R-Scarborough. “They have questions. They need answers. And individuals who go to DHHS for help too often get stuck in the system. People need a neutral, objective, third party professional who knows the ins and outs of the system – an ombudsman who will work with you so that you get the health care you need.”

LD 1498 clarifies an existing Maine law that requires an ombudsman program for the Medicaid population by defining the role and activities the ombudsman must provide. The bill proposes that DHHS contract with a Maine nonprofit to provide these advocacy services as long as non-state funding is available. DHHS previously contracted with Consumers for Affordable Health Care to provide these services using federal funding combined with funds privately raised by CAHC.

“Determining who is eligible for MaineCare is complicated to say the least,” said Rep. Foley, R-Wells. “The ombudsman is there to take a fresh look at the eligibility determination, consider all the factors that went into that determination and recognize the mistakes. A simple mistake can be the difference between a child having access to lifesaving care for chronic disease, or not. Let’s not be responsible for denying people access to care who are actually eligible for that care.”

“We applaud the Maine House for acting today to ensure that Maine people get the help they need,” said Emily Brostek, executive director of Consumers for Affordable Health Care. “Today, too many families are going without coverage or care because they’ve been told they don’t qualify when in fact they do. People need someone who is fighting for them. Thanks to today’s vote, Mainers are one step closer to having this vital help.”

Consumers for Affordable Health Care is a nonprofit advocacy organization committed to helping all Maine people obtain quality, affordable, health care.

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IMPORTANT: If your 2017 health insurance plan was discontinued, you may qualify for an extension to sign up for a new plan until March 1, 2018.

The Open Enrollment period to get health insurance for 2018 ended on December 15, 2017. Open Enrollment is the time of year you can sign up for health insurance. If you don’t have any insurance, you might have to pay a fine when you file your taxes.

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