This past Legislative Session, MCA saw mixed results for Maine children and families. While we were happy to see many important initiatives succeed, from bills on early childhood to children’s health, many critical policy opportunities did not become law. Check out some highlights from the 127th Legislature, 2nd Regular Session below.
Caring for Our Youngest Children
The Maine Legislature sent a powerful message to Maine children and families by voting to override the Governor’s veto of a bill to protect the health and safety of Maine children in child care. LD 1689, An Act to Protect Children in the State from Possible Sexual, Physical and Emotional Abuse by Persons Who Have Been Convicted of Crimes, sponsored by Rep. Maker (R-Calais), improves the quality of Maine’s criminal background checks on providers to protect the health and safety of our children in child care. To learn more about this new law, click here.
MCA also supported a bill to increase payments to child care providers who accept child care subsidies, but unfortunately, this bill did not become law. We were also disappointed that a bill to increase funding for home visiting that passed in 2015 and was held over to the second session was not enacted.
Increasing Access to Health Care Coverage
Right now, Maine kids are on the verge of a health care coverage crisis. While the rate of uninsured children has declined nationally, the rate of uninsured Maine children has risen. Fortunately, LD 1498, An Act To Clarify Medicaid Managed Care Ombudsman Services, sponsored by Rep. Karen Vachon (R-Scarborough), survived the Governor’s veto and will work towards getting coverage to the over 8,000 uninsured Maine children eligible for coverage through MaineCare.
It is clear that access to oral health care is also an issue for many Maine families and oral health care is a critical component of overall health. As a result, MCA supported a bill to increase access to oral health care through the role of dental hygiene therapists. The bill did not become law but MCA will continue to work on improving access to oral health care for Maine children.
Lastly, MCA supported a bill to improve the application for the Child and Adult Care Food Program in Maine. As food insecurity rises among families in Maine, it is important to remove barriers that prevent eligible children and families access the resources they need. Although this bill did not become law, DHHS has indicated that they have begun work to streamline the application and reapplication process.
Covering Our Children in the Child Welfare System
One of the biggest disappointments this session was the veto of LD 213, An Act To Ensure the Comprehensive Medical, Dental, Educational and Behavioral Assessment of Children Entering State Custody, sponsored by Sen. Gratwick (D-Bangor).
This carry over bill from the previous session sought to ensure all children entering the child welfare system received proper health care assessments. We know that preventive care and early intervention from mental to physical health is critical to child well-being. Children enter the child welfare system for a number of different reasons and we owe it to them to make sure they receive the care they deserve.
Protecting Maine Care Funding & Services
Finally, on the last day of the Legislative session we were pleased to see Legislators join together to protect the thousands of youth who receive MaineCare funded children’s behavioral health services.
Without a clear strategic plan to deliver children’s behavioral health services, these cuts would have substantially increased already existing access problems to treatment and services for children and their families. But Maine lawmakers passed a moratorium on the proposed rate cuts, ensuring Legislative oversight and input.