Monday, May 29, 2006

Dirigo on Life Support

When state officials proposed the creation of the Dirigo Health program, they predicted that it would enroll 31,000 people by the end of the first year.

Now, more than 16 months after the program was rolled out, fewer than 10,000 people are enrolled. And the program has a long way to go toward its stated goal of providing health coverage to the 130,000 Mainers who lack insurance; it is now providing coverage to about 5,000 people who previously weren't insured.

Why the shortfall?

DirigoChoice is most appealing to individuals who receive rebates on their coverage based on income, and to those who otherwise can't get insurance because of pre-existing conditions or a lapse in coverage.

In other words, the only ones it attracts are those who can get the health insurance at a discount or are uninsurable.

Why does this not surprise me?

Four out of five enrollees receive subsidies from the program.

Here is part of the problem.

DirigoChoice is appealing to low-income people who receive subsidies -- up to 100 percent -- and people who are sick and can't otherwise get insurance, many business owners and insurance agents say DirigoChoice doesn't offer the cost savings to justify switching.

Dirigo is mostly attracting the poor risks and does not have enough sizzle to attract good risks to offset the losses.

"We aren't backing down from our commitment to get to universal coverage," said Trish Riley, director of the Gov.'s Office of Health Policy and Finance. "It's just a little unclear on how long it's going to take."

Translation: they have no clue why the program isn’t working and have no idea how much more taxpayer money will be required to fix the problem.

NOTE: We called this 'way back in February.
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