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Report Examines Money's Influence in Maine Health Insurance Overhaul
10/02/2012   Reported By: Tom Porter

A new report aims to show how contributions from corporate interests helped pave the way for the enactment last year of a controversial health insurance law. LD 1333 was enacted in May 2011 and was regarded as a major victory for Maine's Republicans, who had assumed control of the Legislature the previous November. According to a "Money in Politics" study released by Maine Citizens for Clean Elections, in the 10 years preceeding the law's enactment, "those with powerful financial interests" in the health insurance and health care industries spent more than $1 million on campaign contributions to candidates and political action committees

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"And what this money does is undermine the voices of everyday Mainers in not only our elections, but also in the policy-making process afterwards, and we think that's wrong," says Andrew Bossie, executive director of Maine Citizens for Clean Elections, an organization dedicated to decreasing the role of money in politics.

"We think that first and foremost - and unequivocally - that Maine people should be the voices that are heard in our State House," Bossie says.

While a million dollars may not sound like a huge amount for corporations to spend over a decade, Bossie says it's significantly more than ordinary voters can donate.

"Ask the average Maine person how much they are able to contribute to political campaigns, and ask them if they think their voices are being heard over special interests in Augusta, when $100,000 is spent a year to influence not only our elections, but then even more money spent by lobbyists to influence the policy-making process," he says.

LD 1333, now known as Public Law 90, brought fundamental changes to the way Maine regulates the health insurance industry. Supporters say it gives carriers more flexibility and that means lower rates, while opponents fear it will lead to inequality in cost and access to healthcare among Mainers.

The Maine Citizens for Clean Elections report also points out that the health insurer with the biggest single stake in Maine - Anthem - became much more partisan in its donations following the GOP victory in the 2010 elections, giving 84 percent of its donations to Republicans in officie in the run-up to the passage of the law.

"We're not saying whether or not this law is good or bad for Maine people - we'll leave that to others," Bossie says. "But what we are saying is that the voices of Maine people could be drowned out by this money."

"It's an insult to imply that for some reason we were enacting LD 1333 as a favor or a payback of some kind for insurers. It's an insult and it's completely wrong.

Jonathan McKane is a Republican who represents Newcastle and is the bill's sponsor. He says LD 1333 contained clauses that insurance companies really didn't like.

"One of them is the fact that Mainers will be able to purchase health insurance across state lines in 2014," McKane says. "Health insurance companies in Maine do not like that. The other part of 1333 that they don't like is captive insurers - companies can band together now and self-insure in a way that they could never do before, and it's taking business directly away from insurers. They fought this."

Nevertheless, Andrew Bossie of Maine Citizens for Clean Elections insists that what he calls "big money special interests" undermines the voices of everyday people in the legislative process.

The "Money in Politics" report calls for a strengthening of campaign finance and clean election laws - laws that were weakened last year by a Supreme Court ruling that effectively puts a limit on the public funds available to clean elections candidates.

Anthem spokesman Chris Dugan did not return a call seeking comment. But he did send us an email, saying that: "Anthem
Blue Cross Blue Shield Maine, like many other corporations and organizations, makes political contributions to local and state candidates. In doing so," he goes on to say, "we fully comply with all applicable disclosure requirements. "

View the entire Money in Politics report.



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