Maine Health Program Savings Estimated to be $34 Million

By | July 24, 2006

Maine’s top insurance regulator said that last year’s savings in the state’s health care system resulting from the politically hot Dirigo universal health care program amounted to $34.3 million.

Insurance Superintendent Alessandro Iuppa’s figure was several million dollars less in savings than the $41.5 million Dirigo’s board estimated in May, but still enough to make Gov. John Baldacci smile.

Iuppa’s assessment “attests that Dirigo Health is working,” said Baldacci, who has championed the program since its 2003 start.

“In two years, Dirigo has saved the health care system more than $78 million. We have made a good start; more needs to be done to make health insurance affordable for all Mainers,” the Democratic governor said in a prepared statement.

Dirigo Health, which is designed to gradually provide access to health coverage for 130,000 uninsured and underinsured Mainers, as of June was providing health care to more than 15,400 Mainers, including 2,300 small businesses, according to the governor.

The program, whose product is called Dirigo Choice, has been a matter of dispute in the Legislature, the courts and in this year’s gubernatorial campaign.

The Maine Association of Health Plans and other business organizations have gone to court to challenge the program’s first-year savings of $43.7 million. Other critics say the program has failed to meet enrollment goals and is ineffective.

Baldacci said the administration is working with Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield, which administers Dirigo Choice for the state, to develop a lower cost product that would be available to more working families.

The savings figure resulting from Dirigo reforms is important because it accounts for a major part of the funding for the program. Dirigo brings about savings such as reductions in bad debt and charity care because more uninsured and underinsured people have coverage.

Any of several parties may appeal the $34.3 million figure to Superior Court within 30 days of Iuppa’s 18-page filing.

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