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Governor Mills Touts CMS Approval of Maine’s State-Based Marketplace; Announces Maine People Can Begin Window Shopping for Health Plans Beginning Friday

Portland, MAINE – Joined by Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) Administrator Chiquita Brooks-LaSure, Governor Janet Mills today applauded CMS’s recent approval of Maine’s State-based Health Insurance Marketplace – CoverME.gov – and announced that, beginning Friday, October 15, 2021 Maine people can window shop for plans using a new tool called “Plan Compare.”

The “Plan Compare” tool was built using feedback from on-the-ground consumer experience, and it allows Maine people to more easily browse and compare plans based on monthly premiums. Beginning Friday, Maine people can visit CoverME.gov and use Plan Compare to window shop for plans without having to sign up or enter any personal information. When Open Enrollment begins on November 1, 2021, consumers then can use the tool to help them enroll in a plan.

Governor Mills also announced that the Maine Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) Office of the Health Insurance Marketplace will increase funding to Navigators to expand outreach and enrollment activities during the upcoming Open Enrollment Period. The Department will increase funding for a statewide consumer help line and training and technical assistance to $350,000 in 2022 from $200,000 in 2021.

Earlier this month, Governor Mills announced that CMS approved the state’s application to run a State-based Marketplace. A State-based Marketplace allows Maine to customize the Marketplace to fit Maine people’s needs and to tailor outreach and resources toward uninsured communities. Maine was one of three states recently approved by CMS to run its own marketplace.

“Our State-based marketplace puts Maine in the driver’s seat when it comes to health care,” said Governor Janet Mills. “From extending our open enrollment period to creating a pregnancy-related special enrollment period to developing a new tool to easily compare health plans, the creation of our own Marketplace gives us greater flexibility to customize and better fit the needs of Maine people so that we can improve access to high-quality, affordable coverage. I am grateful to CMS for its approval and encourage Maine people to visit CoverME.gov to window shop for plans and sign up beginning on November 1st.”

“The Biden-Harris Administration is committed to working with states to ensure that everyone can get the coverage and care they need and building on the success of the Affordable Care Act and the American Rescue Plan,” said CMS Administrator Chiquita Brooks-LaSure. “CMS applauds states, like Maine, who are taking important steps to expand access to comprehensive health care.”

“The new State-based Marketplace enables us to deliver on a consumer-focused, Maine-based system for finding and enrolling in affordable private health insurance,” said Commissioner Lambrew. “The State-based Marketplace is central to the Mills Administration’s work to improve access to affordable health care.”

In addition to expanding access to MaineCare for more than 85,000 Maine people, Governor Mills’ Made for Maine Health Coverage Act – which passed the Legislature with a strong bipartisan majority – authorized the Maine Department of Health and Human Services to run a State-based Health Insurance Marketplace and made some of the most common medical visits less costly, as part of a larger plan to improve private health insurance for Maine people and small businesses.

The Department took the first step in the transition to a State-based Marketplace during the 2021 Open Enrollment Period (from November 1, 2020 to December 15, 2020), by launching a hybrid Federal-State Marketplace, following Maine’s use of a fully Federal system since 2014.

For the 2022 open enrollment period and in future years, CoverME.gov will serve as Maine’s fully state-based marketplace platform. The Department launched the website in October 2019 as a resource for Maine people to explore affordable health insurance options. With the new State-based Marketplace, CoverME.gov will expand to become the official platform where Maine people can shop for and enroll in private coverage.

“We are excited about the Administration’s great work in receiving approval of Maine’s state-based Marketplace – one of a number of steps Governor Mills has taken to improve access to health care in Maine,” said Ann Woloson, Executive Director of Consumers for Affordable Health Care. “Mainers in need of health insurance this coming year have more affordable options. Monthly premium rates have decreased for tens of thousands of Mainers. CoverME.gov is an important tool that consumers can use to help sort through options and enroll in coverage they need.”

“I am pleased Maine will be offering a state-based Marketplace to support individuals enrolling in affordable health care while being able to customize special enrollment periods to better meet the needs of the citizens of Maine,” said Patty Lovell, Marketplace Navigator, Western Maine Community Action. “The increased tax credits available through the American Rescue Plan reduced premiums by $50 to $330 for individuals I assisted to update their healthcare plans through the Marketplace. Affordable health insurance is important for everyone, especially during these extraordinary times.”

With a State-based Marketplace, Maine can set its own Open Enrollment period and, to that end, at the direction of the Governor, Maine has added an extra month this year –through January 15 rather than December 15– to give Maine people more time to sign up for a health plan.

Further, among other benefits of a State-based Marketplace, Maine can make improvements to Special Enrollment Periods, which are times when Maine people can sign up for coverage outside of the Open Enrollment Period. To that end, Maine features a new pregnancy special enrollment period, which will allow pregnant women without Marketplace coverage to get health coverage outside of the Open Enrollment Period.

Currently, 15 other states run a State-based Marketplace, including all other New England states except New Hampshire. The ongoing operation of Maine’s State-based Marketplace is funded by a user fee charged to health insurance companies that use the platform to sell their plans.

As in previous years, those who already have a Marketplace plan will be automatically re-enrolled in their current plan or the most similar offering from their health insurance carrier. Consumers will receive information about the re-enrollment process directly from CoverME.gov in October. People who apply through CoverME.gov who are eligible for MaineCare will have their application sent to MaineCare for review. Eligible Maine people can enroll in MaineCare at any time of year.

Following the press conference, Governor Mills and Administrator Brooks-LaSure joined a virtual roundtable discussion with Maine Enrollment Assister Organizations. These organizations, which are spread across the state, work hand-in-hand with Maine people to help them consider health insurance options and enroll in coverage.