Watching Maine, The Other Big New England Health Insurance Reform Experiment

The momentous move toward a single-payer system in Vermont gets most of the attention, but let us not forget another major experiment in health insurance reform now under way in New England: Maine’s move in the opposite direction, toward a looser health insurance market.

Thanks to Josh Archambault, director of health care policy at the Pioneer Institute, a conservative think tank, for pointing out today’s update on Maine’s moves in the Morning Sentinel here. From that report, it sounds like people still disagree on the effects of the path Maine has chosen, but all agree that the status quo could not stand. (Hmmm. Sounds a lot like Massachusetts.)

Here’s how MaineToday Media state house writer Susan M. Cover sums up the Maine changes:

Dr. Wendy Wolf, chief executive officer of the Maine Health Access Foundation, laid the groundwork for the forum by talking about L.D. 1333, a law passed with mostly Republican support in May.

“This law represents one of the most significant changes in health insurance since the 1990s,” Wolf said.

The law takes steps to ease regulations in the health insurance system. It allows Mainers to buy insurance across state lines, gives insurance companies flexibility in setting rates for people based on age, whether they smoke, and where they live. It also creates a “high risk pool” for people who use a lot of health care services.

To pay for those in the pool, everyone in the state with private coverage will pay as much as a $4 monthly assessment, which could go as high as $6. The $4 assessment would generate $25 million a year to support the reinsurance pool, said Eric Cioppa, acting superintendent of the state Bureau of Insurance. Continue reading

Maine Likely To Repeal Health Care Reform

You know how the rest of the country looks to Massachusetts to see how health care reform might play out nationally? (Latest example: PBS this week.) Well, now, the rest of the country may soon start looking to Maine to see how a repeal of health care reform might play out nationally.

Maine’s new governor-elect is Paul LePage, a colorful Republican who knew homelessness and deprivation as the oldest of 18 children in a poor Maine family, but went on to become a successful businessman and mayor.

During his campaign, he pledged to “repeal and replace” the state’s groundbreaking 2003 health care reform, “Dirigo Health.” (Dirigo means “I lead” and is the state’s motto.) He called it a “costly failure” and said it had “cost taxpayers more than $160 million to cover just 3,400 uninsured Mainers,” a charge the reform’s backers contest.

Now, it’s looking like Dirigo Health “may be one of the first casualties of the Republican landslide in state capitals,” reports Stateline, a news Website on state politics funded by the Pew Charitable Trusts. Continue reading