March 1, 2015

Rep. Mark Bryant sponsors bills to increase women's access to health care and protect children from identity misuse

Bryant backs bill to increase women’s access to health care

AUGUSTA—Low-income women would have greater access to essential health care services under a measure backed by Rep. Mark Bryant, D-Windham.
LD 319, An Act To Strengthen the Economic Stability of Qualified Maine Citizens by Expanding Coverage of Reproductive Health Care and Family Services, allows for uninsured and underinsured low-income women to have access to important preventative services such as cancer screenings, annual exams, Pap tests, birth control and STD testing. The measure empowers women to make decisions about starting a family and prevents unintended pregnancy.
“These clinics provide a wide array of health services and can often discover other health issues outside of those related to family planning,” said Bryant, a cosponsor of the bill. “By expanding availability of this kind of care, we would increase the likelihood of detecting cervical and breast cancer among Maine women along with other potential health issues.”
Under the measure, the federal government would pay $9 for each dollar of state funds that goes toward the effort. Maine would join the 32 states that have already seen benefits by providing healthcare services to low-income women. The bill would provide publicly funded preventative health care to adults up to 209 percent of the federal poverty level, approximately $23,000 for a household of one.
One-third of all American women are living very close to the poverty line, earning less than $47,000 per year for a family of four. Thousands of Maine women and the children who depend on them are one unexpected expense away from financial collapse.
The first-year savings to Maine are conservatively estimated at $100,000 and, by the third year, the state would save nearly $2 million.
The bill specifically does not cover abortion services. Federal law prohibits these funds being used for abortion services.
A similar bill passed the Legislature in 2014 but did not survive a veto from the governor.

Rep. Bryant sponsors bill to protect children from identity misuse

AUGUSTA – Legislation to protect children from identity misuse will be heard by the Committee on Health and Human Services this session. The bill aims to prevent parents from using their child’s Social Security number to secure temporary financial assistance. 
“Lower-income families can easily fall on hard times — often through no fault of their own,” said Rep. Mark Bryant, D-Windham, the bill’s primary sponsor. “Under pressure, some turn to drastic measures in order to support the ones they love.”
Since the recession, a national trend has emerged of caretakers using the name, address and Social Security number of an entrusted minor in order to secure finances, such as mortgages and private student loans. The loans are not paid back and the child’s credit is ruined. Often, these minors do not know their identity has been misused until they request a credit check years later.
Bryant’s bill, LD 219, would establish a process by which the Department of Health and Human Services can inquire as to whether or not a family is misusing the identity of a child when applying for cash or health assistance.
“My bill is not intended as an attack on those parents who would go to such extreme measures to get by,” said Bryant. “They are not criminals with malicious intent. They are people who are simply trying to stay afloat through incredibly challenging times.”
For more information on the bill, which will receive a public hearing in the coming weeks, visit:
Bryant is serving his fifth non-consecutive term in the Maine House and represents part of Windham.

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