Gov. John Baldacci this week signed into law a bill that authorizes Maine’s Dirigo Health program to self-insure. But it doesn’t mean that will happen overnight, or even anytime soon.
For now, the self-administration law is “another very important tool in the tool box,” said the director of the Governor’s Office of Health Policy and Finance, Trish Riley.
Dirigo, the state-affiliated program created by a 2003 law that provides health insurance to thousands of Mainers who lack coverage, is now marketed by Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield. The new law allows the state to take over that role.
The legislation also calls for expansion of the existing Dirigo Health board from five to nine members, adding expertise in the complex area of health financing to the panel.
The new law is likely to come up for discussion when the Dirigo Board meets Thursday, said Riley. But it remains unclear whether the board would be poised to take any steps toward self-insurance, with proposals to refinance Dirigo still up in the air.
Before it adjourned last week, the Legislature reached an impasse on Baldacci’s bill that would have changed the way Dirigo is financed. The governor hasn’t said yet how he plans to proceed with the issue.
But Mary Mayhew, vice president of the Maine Hospital Association, who followed the legislation closely, said state officials are facing an extra challenge financing Dirigo Health now that the governor’s financing bill has run aground.
Moving toward self-administration would only add to that challenge, Mayhew said.
Riley said Dirigo funding remains secure, noting that the state supreme court on May 31 upheld a key funding source of the program, savings offset payments, assessments made to insurers based on savings created by Dirigo.
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