Businesses Appear to Shun Maine’s Health Plan

July 19, 2004
Report: Lax Safety a Factor in Deadly Nursing Home Conn. Fire
Lax safety standards and inaccurate information about fire drills contributed to the deaths of 16 people in a fire at a Hartford, Conn. nursing home last year, federal investigators say.

A report issuedby the U.S. Government Accountability Office also faulted the staff of the Greenwood Health Center for failing to properly apply the nursing home’s fire response plan, particularly by not shutting doors to patients’ rooms after the fire started.

“Inadequate staff response contributed to the loss of life in the Hartford fire,” the report said.

The Feb. 26, 2003, blaze killed 10 nursing home patients and residents, many of whom were too old or incapacitated to save themselves. Six hospitalized patients died in the weeks following the fire.

Authorities say the fire was set by a mentally disturbed patient, Lesley Andino, who was flicking a cigarette lighter to see if it worked. A blanket caught fire, starting the blaze.

Andino, 24, faces 16 counts of arson murder in connection with the blaze. State psychologists are trying to determine if she is competent to stand trial.

Greenwood is under new management and has since been renamed the Park Place Health Center.

Lexington Highgreen Holding Inc., the management company that operated the Greenwood facility at the time of the fire, has since declared bankruptcy. The home is now operated by Spectrum Healthcare LLC of Vernon.

Calls seeking comment at the office and home of Howard Dickstein, the company’s president and chief executive, were not immediately returned Saturday.

The investigation conducted by the Government Accountability Office, the federal government’s investigative branch formerly known as the General Accounting Office, said Greenwood staff members provided inaccurate information to fire inspectors about how often fire drills were conducted among the night staff. The fire broke out at about 3:30 a.m.

The Greenwood facility lacked sprinklers and smoke detectors in patients’ rooms, but they were not required. Spectrum, which has reopened the fire-damaged wing, has put in place those and other fire-safety measures.

Copyright 2004 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

The majority of about 600 small businesses in Maine do not plan to purchase health care insurance through the state’s Dirigo Health program, a survey released this month has found.

The survey, conducted by the Maine State Chamber of Commerce, found that 82 percent of those businesses surveyed did not anticipate buying into the plan. Survey results appeared in this month’s chamber newsletter.

Chamber President Dana Connors, who also sits on the Dirigo Board of Trustees, said the cost of premiums likely contributed to the apparent low interest.

“They didn’t see what they hoped to see, which is the cost being greatly reduced,” as compared to plans already on the market, Connors said.

Connors said the survey did not get information on what it would take to entice small businesses to sign on to the Dirigo plan. The survey also did not ask if the company already offered health insurance to its employees.

Only companies smaller than 50 employees can sign up for the Dirigo plan, which allows Mainers to get health coverage through private insurers at rates subsidized by the state and participating employers. Based on size, about 25 percent of the survey participants would be ineligible for Dirigo.

Under the plan, individuals would pay a rate as low as $260 a month while families of four would pay $780.

Trish Riley, the director of the governor’s Office of Health Policy and Finance and the health plan’s chief architect, said the survey was “not a surprise.”

“The chamber audience is a very different group of people than our target audience,” she said. “Many chamber members already offer health coverage.”

Riley said another reason for apparent low interest is that businesses want to see a finalized product with a full list of benefits before deciding to join. That is a work in progress, she said.

Anthem is the only insurance company to bid on the state’s business so far. While details of that bid have yet to be released, Riley said the bid did make it through the first round of reviews.

Copyright 2004 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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