AUGUSTA, Maine — The House of Representatives on Tuesday upheld Gov. Paul LePage’s veto of a bill that would have helped cigarette smokers better afford health insurance.

LD 135, sponsored by Rep. Linda Sanborn, D-Gorham, would have reduced from 50 percent to 20 percent the surcharges charged by small group and individual health insurance plans for consumers who smoke cigarettes.

LePage wrote in his veto letter that he objects to the measure because it would “set in stone” what many insurance carriers are already offering.

“Innovation in benefit design is the primary method of competition among carriers, which reduces cost to the consumer,” wrote LePage. “This bill hurts consumers by narrowing their future coverage options — if a carrier raises rates on smokers in the future, they can lower rates for nonsmokers. In other words, this bill reduces the financial benefit of avoiding tobacco.”

The House voted 83-64 in favor of sustaining LePage’s veto, which fell short of the two-thirds threshold required to override a veto.

The bill had passed with strong support in both the House and the Senate, without roll calls.

Christopher Cousins

Christopher Cousins has worked as a journalist in Maine for more than 15 years and covered state government for numerous media organizations before joining the Bangor Daily News in 2009.