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The Issues: Healthcare

Hannah Pingree Addresses the Issues

Working to Alleviate Maine's Healthcare Crisis

As Mainers unfortunately know all too well, we are facing a healthcare crisis in terms of the cost of insurance and the lack of affordable and quality options. Maine healthcare costs and insurance costs are high, and still rising, due to a variety of factors, from our aging demographics to the rural geography of our state to the high utilization of healthcare due to obesity, smoking, and substance abuse. In addition, these high and rising healthcare costs are a drain on our economy, our job growth and our state budget.

Like most states, there are a variety of ways people access healthcare in Maine. These include:

  1. Employer benefit plans
  2. Medicare, federal health insurance for people over 65 and some severely disabled adults
  3. MaineCare, also known as Medicaid— state-run and federally subsidized insurance for children, families, seniors, and disabled people who have low incomes. About 11% of Maine adults and 25% of kids are enrolled in MaineCare (CubCare for kids)
  4. Private Insurance Plans, which are very limited in Maine. A majority of people have high deductible plans
  5. Uninsured People, those lacking insurance who are forced to pay the full costs of care or who are unable to afford medical treatment.

Attempting to buy insurance as an individual or as a small business has proved increasingly difficult in Maine, leading to a greater number of uninsured. Clearly, this is a major issue for our state, mirroring a similar national crisis. There are a variety of health issues the state can try to address. Through the Dirigo Health Program, the state has tried to begin making progress on a number of these issues, attempting to control rising healthcare costs and provide a more affordable plan for individuals and small business. The Dirigo Health program was a major step for the state of Maine, and one that, after less than a year of implementation, is starting to work. It is a work in progress and an experiment attempting to tackle a complicated issue with no easy or affordable solution.

The Dirigo Health website is chock full of information about how the program works and also has a calculator to help people figure out how they can enroll in the Dirigo Health Plan and what the cost will be (it is based on a sliding scale and income-depending).

Maine has also tried to address many of the other major health issues that drive costs higher, with some major successes. These include:

Maine Healthcare Information Resources

Maine Bureau of Health
The Department of Health and Human Services' online resource of health and healthcare information including their extensive program index.

Dirigo Choice
Maine's Healthcare Plan for businesses with 50 or fewer employees, the self-employed, and individuals. Learn more about the new Dirigo Choice Health insurance product and calculate whether it will save your family or your business money or provide better coverage than your current insurance.

Dirigo Health
Dirigo is about more than just the Dirigo Choice plan— it contains costs, ensures access, and improves the quality of health care for all in Maine. While you're there, learn more about the Maine Quality Forum, an independent division of Dirigo Health, to continue Maines leadership in assuring high quality healthcare for its citizens, and the new Maine Health Plan required by the Dirigo Law.

MaineCare
Also known as Medicaid, MaineCare provides medical insurance and payments to health care providers for thousands of low-income families and individuals, including CubCare— free or low cost health insurance for pregnant women and families with children.

Maine RX Plus
Providing lower cost prescription drugs for Maine people and seniors through this historic program. Low-income seniors may also qualify for the Drugs for the Elderly Program as well. Additional discounts may be available through the new Federal Medicare Drug Benefit program which will begin in 2006.

Long-term Care
Providing a range of personal and health care services available in homes, our communities and assisted living facilities for individuals and families. Additional information and assistance is available at the Long-Term Care Ombudsman's web site.

Mental Health Services
Providing resources, information and free to low-cost mental health services for families, adults and children living in Maine.

Prevention Programs
Aslo housed at the Maine Bureau of Health is an extensive listing of resources and information on Maine's prevention programs which help to stem the occurance of many health problems.

Maine Healthcare Policy Resources

Maine Rural Health Research Center
The University of Southern Maines' Muskie School of Public Service addresses all aspects of Rural Health focusing on critical, policy-relevant issues in health care access and financing, rural hospitals, primary care and behavioral health.

Governor's Office of Health Policy
Charged with developing and implementing health care reforms to ensure access to affordable and quality health care for every man, woman and child in the state of Maine.

National Academy for State Health Policy
A non-profit, non-partisan organization dedicated to helping states achieve excellence in health policy and practice.

Maine Center for Economic Policy
An independent, nonpartisan research organization advancing public policy solutions to achieve a prosperous, fair and sustainable economy.

Families USA
A national nonprofit, non-partisan organization dedicated to the achievement of high-quality, affordable health care for all Americans.

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Hannah Pingree OnlineHannah Pingree is the House Representative of Maine District 36 covering Brooklin, Deer Isle, Frenchboro, Isle au Haut, part of Mount Desert, North Haven, Stonington, Swans Island and Tremont and Vinalhaven. Paid for by the Committee to Re-Elect Hannah Pingree, Foy W. Brown, Treasurer. Logo by Amy Fischer Designs of Camden, Maine.