Maine Governor Says 'No' To Kids With Autism

AUGUSTA (April 29, 2014) -- Maine Governor Paul LePage has vetoed a bill that would raise the age cap on the state's 2010 autism insurance law from 5 to 10, saying it would raise insurance premiums and taxes. The Legislature, which reconvenes Thursday, had passed the autism bill by a two-thirds majority, the number of votes which would be sufficient to overturn the veto.

LePage's veto of LD.347  was among 30 he issued at the conclusion of the current legislative session, raising the total issued during his first term in office to a record 163, according to a report in the Bangor Daily News.

In his veto message, LePage said "it is perplexing that any legislator would promote individuals seeking inexpensive coverage through the (Affordable Care Act) exchanges while simultaneously voting for a bill like this, which makes that coverage less affordable.

"With respect to the taxpayer-funded State Employee Health Plan, every bell and whistle we put on that plan adds to its 'richness'," LePage added, "In just a few years, the ACA's Cadillac tax on rich health insurance benefits will take effect-if we simply keep adding benefits on to the State Employee Health Plan, the estimated Cadillac tax to be paid from the State is $18 million for the first year. I ask you to consider if this bill will help or hurt us in the long run."

LePage in his message did not address the 60 percent increase in the prevalence of autism since Maine enacted its 2010 law, nor the out-of-pocket cost for families to cover autism treatment without insurance which can be $60,000 a year or higher. Without insurance, families have gone bankrupt, sold their houses or moved to other states in order to provide their children treatment.

Maine is one of 36 states to require state-regulated insurers to cover medically necessary therapies for autism, including applied behavior analysis (ABA) and speech, occupational and physical therapy. Ten other states have amended their original laws to make them stronger, including Vermont, Texas and Louisana which all raised their original age cap.

The Maine expansion bill was the first ever to be vetoed.