At the end of June, the Maine Health Care Act LD 1045 became law without the Governor’s signature.

Two key components of the new law are the Maine Health Care Plan and the Maine Health Care Board. The Plan component is “to provide for all medically necessary health care services for all residents of the State.” The Board’s role is “to oversee the planning and implementation…, and to administer the Plan”, including obtaining a federal waiver for a state-based plan, and federal financing to support implementation.

It is important to note that many important details and elements of the original legislation were removed from the Maine Health Care Act. And although it was enacted, the law has a contingent effective date so it does not go into effect until a contingency outlined in section 4 of the law happens. That is, the law will not become effective unless: (1) federal law is enacted that authorizes a state to obtain a waiver to establish a universal health care plan and to receive federal funding; and (2) the Superintendent of Insurance provides notice of the contingency to the Legislature, the Secretary of State and the Revisor of Statutes. The effective date of the law will be the day that notice of the contingency is received by the Legislature.

The Legislature also passed a Joint Resolution expressing the need for universal healthcare, asking Congress to enact legislation to authorize states to obtain a state universal health care waiver.

This bill and the Joint Resolution are significant, representing the first time the Maine legislature has taken even this small step in support of universal healthcare.  In addition, LD 1045 and the Joint Resolution were passed by the legislature during a very busy session, when many expected that universal healthcare would not receive any attention.

Though leaving much work ahead, the past years of efforts – hours of in-person or online public testimony, meetings with and producing informative and supporting documents for legislators – has moved the Maine Legislature to ask the Federal government to implement healthcare reform or remove the barriers for states such as Maine to lead the way.