Maine Governor Stacks Health Exchange Advisory Board With Insurance Lobbyists And Health Executives

Gov. Paul LePage (R-ME) has appointed a nine-member committee to advise the state on how to develop Maine’s health insurance exchange, the Maine Public Broadcasting Network is reporting. But, “nearly all of the committee members have professional ties to the health care industry,” and LePage specifically excluded consumer advocates from the board:

Earlier this year, the health care advocacy group known as Consumers for Affordable Health Care approached members of Gov. Paul LePage’s staff about being included on a nine-member advisory panel that will make recommendations to the Legislature for the establishment of Maine’s Health Insurance Exchange.

“They were very cordial, and I want to be very clear — they were very up-front and they let us know in advance before the appointments were made public that there was not a slot available for us to fill,” says Mitchell Stein of Consumers for Affordable Health Care. “They listened, but, unfortunately, their answer was no.”Stein says his agency had hoped there would be at least one consumer member on the committee to represent the health care concerns of average Mainers as the state prepares to meet a 2014 deadline for getting the exchanges up and running….The committee is chaired by former House Republican Leader Joe Bruno, who operates a chain of Maine pharmacies, and consists almost exclusively of health insurance and business lobbyists and executives in the health care industry.

LePage’s tilt towards industry is not surprising. Since taking office, LePage has repeatedly attempted to cut the state’s Medicaid program by reducing eligibility to the level in place in most states, thereby throwing off some 30,000 Mainers off the rolls. Under his new “market based” health law, those beneficiaries would have to go out and purchase coverage from private insurers.