Maine health care organizations and advocacy groups forecast that gun violence will be a top health issue during the legislative session that started on January 3rd. Other priorities include the opioid crisis, resources for older adults, increasing reimbursement rates, and nurse staffing ratios. The session will consider new legislation and bills carried over from the previous year, including LD 796, which addresses insurance carriers refusing to reimburse necessary care, and LD 225, requiring Medicaid to pay for certain hospital-stay patients awaiting long-term care facility placement.
Gun Violence, Opioid Crisis and Health Care Reforms Dominate Legislative Session in Maine
Maine health care bodies anticipate that the issue of gun violence, particularly following October’s mass shooting in Lewiston, will heavily influence health-related discussions in the ongoing legislative session started on Jan. 3.
Other key health priorities include combating the opioid crisis, providing better resources for the elderly, increasing reimbursement rates, and deliberating nurse staffing ratios.
Dr. Paul R. Cain, president of the Maine Medical Association, which represents over 4,000 medical professionals, stated, “The primary aim of the upcoming legislative session is to promote effective gun safety legislation and further our efforts to mitigate the alarming fatalities in Maine due to opioid use disorder.”
The Maine nurses union supports gun safety legislation such as a ban on the sale of assault-style weapons following the Bowdoin man killed 18 people, raising questions about the state’s gun laws and mental health services. MaineHealth, the state’s largest health system, supports evidence-based legislation to combat gun violence.
The Maine Medical Association and Maine Hospital Association support LD 796, which targets insurance carriers refusing to reimburse medically necessary care. The hospital association also backs LD 225, which would require Medicaid to pay for some care when their patients are in hospitals awaiting placement in a long-term care or residential care facility.
However, the Maine Hospital Association opposes LD 1639, which seeks to establish minimum registered nurse staffing levels, citing high cost implications. MaineHealth also expressed concerns about the legislation, which was vigorously debated last year.
The Maine State Nurses Association strongly supports the bill, citing California’s successful implementation of nurse-to-patient ratio laws.
Katie Fullam Harris, from MaineHealth, indicated that questions around child protective services, gaps in long-term care and behavioral health could also dominate the session.
Angela Cole Westhoff, from the Maine Health Care Association, voiced concerns about the “chronic underfunding” of nursing homes and residential care facilities which has led to numerous closures.
The Maine Council on Aging seeks funding for LD 1718 and LD 1684 to improve workforce and resources for senior citizens.
The Maine Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association supports LD 1718, LD 2125 (which would establish a dementia advisory council), and LD 1577 (which would necessitate health insurance coverage of biomarker testing).
The Maine Public Health Association prioritizes gun violence prevention, ending sales of flavored tobacco products, recognizing Wabanaki self-determination, overseeing medicinal and adult use of cannabis, and safeguarding public health funding.