A bill that would provide so-called equity payments to family planning providers who provide an ever-expanding range of medical services to MaineCare patients won narrow approval from a key legislative panel on Friday.
The Health and Human Services Committee voted 7-4 to pass a last-minute bill by Sen. Cathy Breen, D-Cumberland, that would compensate family planning providers for the many primary care services they provide. provide to an otherwise underserved segment of the public.
“The bill provides fair payment to providers to recognize the wide range of care they provide — care that often goes well beyond what we consider family planning,” Breen said. “Reproductive health care providers are on the front lines of Maine’s health care system.”
Unexpected non-reproductive health care services offered at family planning clinics include addiction treatment intervention and referrals, Narcan prescriptions, depression screenings, domestic violence referrals, and guidance on housing and food security.
For many young, healthy patients, this is the only health care they will receive year-round, Breen said.
The state is conducting a comprehensive review of all MaineCare pricing. Breen said his bill was intended to fill a gap in the system, much like the equity-based payment programs offered in Vermont and Oregon, rather than preempting that state review.
In written testimony, the state Department of Health and Human Services said it agrees with the bill’s goals, but not with what it calls the cumbersome and outdated means that he would achieve. The department has promised to begin reviewing and revising MaineCare rates for these providers this year.
The cost of the increased payments required by the bill has yet to be determined. But proponents say a 9-to-1 federal match means that every state dollar spent on services related to reproductive health care will yield disproportionate results for all the treatments MaineCare patients receive at those facilities.
“The reality is that today a patient who walks through our doors is getting so much more than a prescription for birth control or a Pap test and the state’s MaineCare system hasn’t caught up with that change,” he said. said Nicole Clegg, vice president of public affairs at Planned. Northern New England parenthood.
Planned Parenthood serves 14,000 people a year at its four Maine health centers, some of whom cannot afford health care. In total, Clegg estimated that the agency provides about $4 million a year in free and discounted care in Maine.
While proponents like Planned Parenthood have pointed to the expanded menu of health care offered by family planning providers, opponents like the Catholic Church have focused on the most controversial family planning services: abortion.
“Catholics support health care that values life,” said Suzanne Lafrenière, spokesperson for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland. “The health care received at family planning facilities statewide in Maine is not lifesaving. It’s the end of life.
Opponents have also criticized the way the bill, DL 811came before the committee.
It was introduced last year as a “conceptual bill”, meaning it had a title – “An Act to Protect the Reproductive Rights and Freedoms of the People of Maine” – but no underlying language. to say what the bill was actually going to do. It was postponed from this pandemic-shortened session.
The bill remained a blank bill, pending before the Judiciary Committee without language, until Thursday, when it was added to the House and Senate agendas for referral to a new committee, health and social services. It was still empty.
Republicans tried to fight the hoist, arguing the committees had finished their work for the session, but Democrats won votes in both houses to move the bill to the Health and Human Services Committee and public safety. Later Thursday night, Breen introduced new bill language and a title focused on health care equity.
Opponents accused supporters of the bill of trying to push a pro-abortion bill through the Legislative Assembly and said there would be hundreds of opponents speaking out against LD 811 , as they had done against the old abortion bills, if the legislation had been properly introduced and noticed.
“Maineans should be appalled,” said Karen Vachon, executive director of Maine Right to Life and former state legislator and health and human services committee member. “It’s the house of the people, where the people have a voice. How can you have a public hearing on a bill without language? »
Breen apologized for the late nature of the bill Thursday during his defense during the committee referral debate. Her assistant has fallen ill and she is taking on a heavy workload as co-chair of the appropriations committee during the budget review, she said.
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