Maine's universal health insurance plan falls short
According to a story in tomorrow's New York Times (reg. req.), Maine's ambitious plans to provide universal health care by 2009 has fallen short, with the vast majority of the uninsured still not covered. Burdened by a considerable rural and poor population, few employer large enough to offer health insurance voluntarily, and most insurance companies being unwilling to sell individual coverage, Maine faces "particular challenges" that the present plan may be unable to meet.
Maine's governor is now hoping for an overhaul of the program that would make it both more affordable and less voluntary, but there is no guarantee that the state legislature will go along.
When Maine became the first state in years to enact a law intended to provide universal health care, one of its goals was to cover -- by 2009 -- the estimated 130,000 residents who had no insurance, starting with 31,000 of them by the end of 2005, the program's first year.
So far, it has not come close to that goal. Only 18,800 people have signed up for the state's coverage, and many of them already had insurance.
Premiums have increased, not become more affordable, because some of those who signed up needed significant medical care, and there are not enough enrollees, especially among healthy people unlikely to use many benefits.
"It was broad-based reform that just never got off the ground," said Laura Tobler, a health policy analyst with the National Conference of State Legislatures. "The way that they funded the program became controversial. And getting insurance was voluntary and it wasn't that cheap."