Sunday, April 06, 2008

Maine Failure

Health care and the uninsured is a hot topic. While political candidates are promising the moon, it seems no one is paying attention to the carnage from failed attempts.

For example, consider Maine . . .

In 2003, a majority of both houses of the Maine state legislature passed the nationally heralded Dirigo Health legislation. The Dirigo Health plan is designed to address cost, quality, and access in Maine’s healthcare system and to achieve universal coverage by 2009.

Only one problem.

After four years and nearly $164 million committed to this program, less than 4 percent of Maine’s previously uninsured people have Dirigo coverage.

Four years and $164,000,000 of taxpayer money including $53,000,000 that came from federal taxes levied on you and me.

So what do the legislators in Maine want to do now?

Unbelievably, legislative Democrats want to increase tobacco taxes, including another 50 cents per pack on cigarettes for a cost of more than $28 million a year, to continue throwing good money after bad at the failed Dirigo experiment. Additional taxes include a 1.8 percent tax on health insurance claims paid, which will make health insurance plans more expensive. The taxes on Maine people are too high already and spending another $28 million a year to cover less than 4 percent of Maine’s uninsured people is an indefensible waste of tax dollars and an irrational reason to raise taxes.

Yep. Throw more money at it.

So why did it fail?

Quite a few reasons, but notably, over-regulation.

The insurance "reforms" in the latest Dirigo bill are costly, unproven and unlikely to have a significant impact on premiums for Maine’s small businesses, sole proprietors, and individuals buying insurance outside their employer. This proposal attempts to subsidize Maine’s poor insurance regulations with an uncertain reinsurance scheme while not fundamentally changing Maine’s guaranteed issue regulation. Only four other states — Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey and Vermont — have guaranteed issue laws like Maine’s, and that’s for a reason.

And there is this.

Suppose you are a Maine-iac (just made that up) and you wanted to get in on this subsidized health plan. Well you would go to the Dirigo site and here is what you would find.

"We are not offering subsidized coverage to new members at this time due to lack of funding.

As your elected officials discuss the future of Dirigo in Augusta, it is important that you let them know what you think of the DirigoChoice program. Let your legislator know if this program is working for you."

And to think it only took four years to run a government run health plan into the ground.

ADDENDUM: Bob actually called this almost two years ago:

"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."

Thank you, Hank, for pointing that out. Actually, we have posted on Dirigo several times. It is interesting (or disgusting as the case may be) to note how truly INEFFECTIVE Dirigo has been.

After 9 months, 1600 enrolled were previously uninsured, the other 6000 previously had health insurance and swapped their plan for one that was subsidized.

After 16 months they had 10,000 enrolled including about 5000 who did not have coverage before.

After 4 yrs 4500 covered by Dirigo were not insured before out of a total 14,400 covered.

So 4 years, $164,000,000 to convert 4,500 uninsured (out of 128,000) to insured status.

What am I missing?
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