Dirigo Health Agency gets $6M grant for health insurance exchanges

By Ramona du Houx - November 29th, 2011 

Maine is receiving a $6 million grant to help establish health insurance exchanges that are part of the Affordable Care Act. The work Governor John Baldacci’s administration did establishing the Dirigo Health Care Act, which has improved the state’s health care systems as well as offering insurance to people who never could afford it, is a major reason the state is receiving the grant. Only 13 states were awarded a grant.

Successes of the Dirigo Health Care Act of 2003:

• In 2003, Maine ranked 16th healthiest among the states; last spring Maine was 8th. In 2003, Maine ranked 19th among the states in covering the uninsured; last May- Maine was 6th.

• During the Baldacci administration Maine created an efficient public health system with eight districts that cover the entire state through Healthy Maine Partnerships.

• Maine created ways that enabled its citizens to become healthier – using tobacco settlement funds.

• Dirigo’s insurance carrier cannot deny insurance coverage on the grounds of a patient having a preexisting condition. For preventative care and primary care there are no copayments involved. These provisions have saved lives.

• Dirigo has helped more than 34,000 Mainers get health insurance since it began.

• As of last May 583 small companies in Maine offer health-care coverage through Dirigo Choice-the health insurance arm of Dirigo Health.

The Maine Dirigo Health Agency will use the funds to help design the state’s exchange and continue consultations with consumer groups and insurance plans. It will also use the funding to study the integration of Medicaid eligibility systems with exchange eligibility systems, collect and analyze data, and develop consumer assistance programs.

Meanwhile the LePage administration is suing the federal government over the ACA and officials have stated they would like Dirigo Health dissolved.

Health exchanges are to be designed to be one-stop marketplaces where consumers can choose a private health insurance plan. By Federal law states are required to have them in place in 2014.