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Maine health insurance assessment upheld


AUGUSTA, Maine--The Maine Supreme Court on Thursday upheld a revenue source that has been used to help subsidize health insurance premiums for low-income Maine residents.

In a 5-1 ruling, the state high court upheld the methodology used by state regulators to assess special fees on insurers. Those fees are to recapture the savings insurers are supposed to gain under Maine's 2003 health care reform law, which was intended to expand the number of people with health insurance.

With more people--due to premium subsidies--having health insurance coverage, hospitals would provide less uncompensated care, reducing their need to inflate charges for insured patients.

State regulators calculated the savings to be nearly $45 million between 2004 and 2005. Insurers challenged the assessment, but the Maine court said the calculation was a "reasonable interpretation of an ambiguous statute."

The assessments, though, could be on their way out. Maine Gov. John Baldacci has proposed that the assessments be discontinued and replaced by a surcharge added to hospital bills.