Friday, August 29, 2008

Remember Maine?

Before Massachusetts implemented their "universal" health care plan, the state of Maine had attempted a plan to guarantee coverage for all the uninsured, called Dirigo.

Now, unhappy Maine residents are protesting yet another tax hike to fund their system, especially after the program was sold to Maine residents as not requiring any new taxes. Nor did the program do much to reduce the problem of the uninsured, as the article notes:
Dirigo Care has cost the state's taxpayers nearly $164 million in the four years since its inception. Although its intended purpose was to insure 128,000 people who had no health coverage, only 4 percent of that total, or just over 5,000 individuals, have been successfully removed from the rolls of the uninsured and into the state program, according to figures from the Maine Heritage Policy Center.
In 2007, the New York Times described Dirigo as "faltering".

In June 2008, others are using the words "boondoggle" and "failure":
DirigoChoice costs taxpayers $2,977 per enrollee per year just for the premium subsidy, excluding Dirigo Health Agency administrative costs.

As of April 2008, there were 12,637 individuals covered by DirigoChoice, less than 1 percent of the state’s population.

Only 31 percent of DirigoChoice enrollees -- 3,917 -- were previously uninsured for at least 12 months prior to enrollment. That is only 3.2 percent of the state’s uninsured population.

The marginal cost to state taxpayers is $9,603 to subsidize the coverage for one previously uninsured person through DirigoChoice.

Maine’s uninsured rate from 2003 to 2006, the latest year available, is virtually unchanged – 128,000 uninsured in 2003, 115,000 in 2004, 132,000 in 2005, 122,000 in 2006.

The Dirigo Health Agency’s administrative costs were $3.7 million in calendar year 2007.

Because of financial difficulties, DirigoChoice was closed to new enrollees on Sept. 1, 2007.

The 1.8 percent health care claims tax, which was included in the tax increase package approved by the Legislature, will cost individuals about $78 and families about $210 a year in higher health care premiums.

Without the $57 to $72 million tax increase, DirigoChoice enrollment is projected to drop by 4,000 individuals. Even with the tax increase, DirigoChoice enrollment still is projected to drop by 1,000 people.

The Dirigo Health experience has cost Maine taxpayers more than $100 million since 2005.

Dirigo Health was supposed to make health insurance more affordable and provide coverage for most of Maine’s uninsured. In fact, it has done neither.
This is the predictable result of government-guaranteed health care.