- Associated Press - Monday, January 11, 2021

PORTLAND, Maine (AP) - The Maine Legislature will consider a proposal that would require insurance companies to cover COVID-19 tests and immunizations and waive any co-payments related to them.

Senate President Troy Jackson and Speaker of the House Ryan Fecteau, who are both Democrats, unveiled the “COVID-19 Patient Bill of Rights” on Monday.

The proposal will be the first bill of the new session of the Maine Legislature, Democratic leaders said. Lawmakers were sworn in last month.

Jackson said the proposal is about making sure patients around the state maintain access to critical healthcare services during the pandemic.

“The COVID-19 Patient Bill of Rights brings us closer to the end of this crisis, and the hold COVID-19 has had over our lives,” he said.



The proposal also includes provisions that ease requirements for telehealth visits. It is also designed to allow residents to get larger supplies of their prescriptions to reduce the number of visits to a pharmacy.

Proponents of the bill said they planned to amend the proposal to also require testing sites to inform uninsured patients about any costs they will have to carry. They said other changes were also planned, such as allowing pharmacists to administer coronavirus vaccines.

The Maine Legislature Office of the Presiding Officers said the proposal “is about making sure nothing prevents Mainers from getting the health care they need to protect themselves, their families and loved ones from this serious virus.”

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In other pandemic news in Maine:

POSITIVITY RATE DOWN

The positivity rate in Maine has trended downward over the last two weeks, despite some days with high numbers of new cases of the virus.

The latest average positivity rate in Maine is 6.09%. State health departments are calculating positivity rate differently across the country, but for Maine the AP calculates the rate by dividing new cases by test specimens using data from The COVID Tracking Project.

The seven-day rolling average of the positivity rate in Maine did not increase over the past two weeks, going from 6.89% on Dec. 27 to 6.09% on Jan. 10.

Public health authorities in Maine have reported more than 29,000 positive cases and 438 deaths since the start of the pandemic.

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STIMULUS PAYMENTS

Some residents of Maine will receive their federal stimulus money in the form of prepaid debit cards.

U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, a Republican, said the Internal Revenue Service has started mailing the cards. They will arrive in a white envelope that prominently displays the seal of the U.S. Department of the Treasury, she said.

“Last month’s COVID relief package included $600 checks for most Mainers. For some of those who have not yet received these funds, the IRS has begun mailing prepaid debit cards,” Collins said.

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