February 23, 2019

Compromise bill bolsters Dirigo hopes

When the Legislature returns today to complete work for this year, it will have the opportunity to adopt an amended version of LD 1935, An Act To Protect Health Insurance Consumers.

The original draft of LD 1935 would have required health insurance carriers to absorb most of the financial burden of paying for Dirigo health. Contrary to popular belief, this proposal would negatively impact Maine’s employer and private insurance purchasers by further weakening our fragile health insurance market and reducing the already limited choices for health insurance in Maine.

Dirigo’s current financing mechanism – known as the Savings Offset Payment (SOP) – is flawed. The SOP is controversial, lacks credibility and is not a reliable measure of the program’s effectiveness. Furthermore, the SOP places the burden of financing the Dirigo program on those employers, workers and individuals who are already struggling to pay for their own health insurance coverage.

Our coalition continues to support the goals of the Dirigo health program – to reduce costs, increase access and enhance the quality of our health care. We have spent several months working on an alternative to LD 1935. Committee Amendment A to LD 1935, now pending before the Legislature, would 1) reduce the 2006 SOP by $20 million, 2) ensure that all Dirigo-related savings in the health care system directly benefit the people of Maine, and 3) create an independent commission to evaluate and make recommendations on all aspects of DirigoChoice, including its financing mechanism.

We believe that Committee Amendment A, while not perfect, protects Maine health insurance consumers and ensures the continuation of DirigoChoice without requiring any reductions in enrollment or jeopardizing the ability of those currently enrolled to continue their coverage.

Our three organizations – the Maine State Chamber of Commerce, the Maine Hospital Association and the Maine Association of Health Plans – believe that an independent commission has the best chance of taking the rhetoric and politics out of the Dirigo debate and moving forward with constructive new ideas and policies. We believe this compromise will move Maine closer to the goal of providing Maine people with access to quality, affordable health care coverage.

We encourage the Legislature to enact this compromise solution so that a constructive and meaningful discussion about how to enhance or improve Dirigo can take place. We believe that it is only through collaborative efforts by stakeholders that the goals of expanding health coverage and affordability will be achieved.

In these closing days of the legislative session, we urge legislators to support this compromise and adopt Committee Amendment A to LD 1935. In doing so they can help make Dirigo a success and help it to achieve its promise of making quality health accessible to all Maine people.

This commentary was written by Dana Connors, president of the Maine State Chamber of Commerce; Erin Hoeflinger, chair of the board of directors of the Maine Association of Health Plans; and Steven Michaud, president of the Maine Hospital Association.

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