Maine taking a different approach to healthcare reform

by Rob Roper

While Vermont Democrats are celebrating what appears to be the certain passage of H.202, putting our state on a path toward a single payer health care system, our neighbor to the northeast is taking a different approach to solving many of the same problems.

Unlike Vermont, which, according to our governor, is pursuing an approach in which “government has gotten this wrong every single time”, the Maine legislature is looking to reform it’s health care system based on a model actually proven to work – Idaho’s.

According to an article in Maine’s Morning Sentinel, “In Idaho, a healthy 20-year-old man pays $104 a month for health insurance, while a 20-year-old in Maine pays $718 a month for a similar plan…. In Idaho, a 60-year-old man pay $401 a month, and a 60 year-old Mainer pay $1,076.”

At the heart of the Maine plan is reducing costs by increasing, rather than eliminating, competition. The bill:

· Allows individuals to purchase health insurance from other New England states by 2014. (One wonders if part of their strategy is to buy bus tickets to Vermont their sickest citizens so that they can “purchase” our “free” healthcare.)

· Allows insurance companies to provide more insurance options to individuals to meet a variety of budgets and needs.

· Creates a wellness tax credit for small businesses with 20 or fewer employees

· Does not affect current mandates but creates market reforms to encourage the growth and more choices in individual insurance market

· Helps small businesses have more affordable choices for employee health insurance

· Lets individuals keep the plans they have now or they can look for more inexpensive options

Maine’s previous attempt at controlling healthcare costs and expanding coverage, Dirigo Care, was dubbed “a well intentioned failure,” much like our own flop, Catamount Health. The only difference seems to be that whereas Mainers appear to be smart enough to learn from their mistakes and not repeat them, Vermonters are intent on doubling down on failure.

The other big difference… in 2010, Maine elected a Republican governor and Republican majorities in their house and senate. Vermont did the opposite, and we’ll certainly get opposite results.