Maine's Baldacci Pushes for Universal Health Expansion

April 6, 2007 (PLANSPONSOR.COM) - Mane Governor John Baldacci has announced plans to expand health coverage to the uninsured via initiatives aimed at employers as well as others requiring individuals with certain income levels to obtain the needed insurance.

Baldacci’s announcement represents an expansion of the state’s 2003 health care access law, which officials admit only represented a first step toward true universal health insurance,   according to a Business Insurance news report.

He said that legislation now being prepared would propose an unspecified employer fee for companies not offering worker health policies as well as mandates that Maine residents with incomes of at least 400% of the federal poverty level obtain health coverage.

Under Baldacci’s proposal, insurers would be forced to cut premiums for group policies at companies offering employee wellness programs, the state would slap a 2% surcharge onto hospital bills to help fund the program and the state would form a purchasing pool to help small employers get more affordable coverage, the news report said.

The latest initiative comes nearly four years after Maine passed legislation to expand health insurance coverage. The heart of the 2003 law is a state program – known as Dirigo Health – through which small employers and individuals can obtain health insurance, with Maine subsidizing premiums of lower-income individuals (See  Maine Governor Inks Universal Health Care Bill ).

However, the program, which currently provides coverage to just over 13,000 state residents, has made only a small impact in reducing the state’s uninsured rate, which now is about 10% of the population.

Baldacci says he is proud of what Dirigo Health has accomplished, adding, though, that “now is the time to take the next step…We will make sure quality health care is available for everyone.”