National Health Reform: Lesson from Maine

Augusta – There is no issue more important to our nation’s future than health care reform and this year there will be action and there will be a plan.  But will it lead to real reform and meet President Obama’s goals of  reducing the deficit and providing affordable coverage for all Americans?  In 2003,  Maine enacted one of the most significant health reform plans of any state.  Some of it worked,  some of it didn’t.  National Health Reform: Lessons  from Maine takes an in-depth look at Maine’s experience and how our journey can inform the national debate.

According to Garrett Martin, MECEP’s economic policy analyst and co-author of the report,  “Maine has pretty much faced everything that Congress is now dealing with – affordability, cost-controls, enrollment obstacles, push back from the insurance industry, attempting a public option.  This analysis of our efforts shines a light on what needs to happen if meaningful reform is going to take place in Washington.”

The main conclusions from the report are as follows:

  • States can’t go it alone
  • A public option can work
  • Payment reform is critical
  • Efforts to water down comprehensive reform must be resisted

“There are a lot of detractors and nay-sayers out there ready to minimize Maine’s reform efforts,” says Martin.  “But without  Dirigo and DirigoChoice, Maine would be in a lot worse shape today.  A common sense national reform package can address the inherent deficiencies all states face when they try and go it alone.”

Some of Maine’s accomplishments noted in the report include:

  • A twenty percent drop in the percentage of Maine people without insurance from 2002-2007
  • Decreasing the rate of growth in health insurance premiums from 13.2% to 6.4% pre- and post- reform
  • $160 million in documented savings in health spending over four years with specific reforms

“We need health reform now,” says MECEP’s federal budget analyst,  Nicole Witherbee, “because the status quo will result in doubling health care spending over the next ten years from $2.2 trillion to $4.4 trillion and increase the number of people who lack coverage and access to the care they need. Health reform is not just a health issue, it’s an economic issue.”

Garrett Martin and Douglas Rooks are co-authors of the report. Garrett Martin is the economic policy analyst at the Maine Center for Economic Policy. Doug Rooks writes frequently about state policy issues for state and national magazines. Nicole Witherbee is the federal budget analyst at MECEP currently working on national health care reform.