Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Remember the Maine...

You may recall that, back in mid-February, we blew the whistle on Maine’s DirigiChoice plan (the Pine Tree State’s subsidized health-care program). Seems that, notwithstanding all its good intentions, the plan has been a colossal failure, and a further demonstration of the folly of government meddling.
Well, the hits just keep on coming:
Apparently, the state has an agreement with Anthem (Blue Cross/Shield), under which Anthem administers the plan. Recently, Governor Baldacci expressed an interest in vacating that agreement, in favor of a self-insured plan. The idea would be that the state could save money by taking a more direct role in the plan’s implementation.
Opponents argue that a self-insured program couldn’t guarantee these savings, and that such an arrangement would violate the promise of a public-private partnership.
The word that comes to mind here is: disingenuous.
There’s no program that will guarantee savings, at least in the long run. At best, any new plan could come in and generate some. And how, exactly, would such a scheme violate any partnership? It doesn’t seem likely that Maine would self-administer the plan; presumably DirigiChoice would contract with a professional administrator to handle the actual operations. That’s still public-private.
The only (marginally) valid objection seems to be the possibility of DC participants losing coverage if the plan goes belly up. I suspect, however, that (given the stakes) the state itself – or rather, the taxpayers – would them bail out.
Of course, there’s the possibility that the plan could choose another carrier when the agreement with Anthem runs out. I’m not familiar with the Pine Tree State’s health insurance market, but I bet I know who’s next at bat (hint: do the initials UHC ring a bell?).
UPDATE: More on this subject, specifically Massachusetts' efforts, at Health Business Blog.
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