Dirigo receives $8.5 Million Federal Grant to Help Insure More Mainers

Total of $42.5 million over the five year project period

Maine will receive $8.5 million this year to provide affordable health insurance for uninsured part-time, seasonal and direct care workers in large businesses. The Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius announced the grant September third while visiting Maine.

“There were many states who applied, but only 13 states will receive grants,” said Sebelius. ” About $70 million total is going to be allocated across the country, and $8.5 million is coming here to Maine.”

The State is also eligible for up to $8.5 million each year for the next four years, for a total of $42.5 million over the five year project period.

“We are very pleased to be one of the States selected in this very competitive national grant program,” said Governor Baldacci. “Our Office of Health Policy and Finance led the team that put together the proposal. These are much needed funds that enable the Dirigo Health Agency to serve more uninsured part-time, seasonal and direct-care workers. Importantly, the grant will also help Dirigo to become an insurance exchange, as envisioned in national health reform proposals.”

This funding will allow the Dirigo Health Agency to help part-time, seasonal and direct care workers in firms with more than 50 employees. Those firms are more likely to offer employer-based health insurance. Vouchers will help workers purchase coverage through private health insurance plans offered by their employers. Any health insurance plan meeting criteria for comprehensive coverage may be purchased with the vouchers.

Trish Riley, Director of the Governor’s Office of Health Policy and Finance, will serve as project director, managing subcontracts with the Dirigo Health Agency for provision of health coverage. The Muskie School at University of Southern Maine will conduct an evaluation of the work. The Governor’s Office of Health Policy and Finance will convene a Business Advisory Committee with the Dirigo Health Agency to guide the program and assist in the design of a special insurance plan to be offered by Dirigo in July 2010 for part-time and seasonal workers who do not have access to workplace health insurance.

Riley said, “This grant supports Dirigo and allows the Agency the opportunity to innovate and provide affordable coverage this year to nearly 3,500 Mainers employed as direct care workers or in part-time and seasonal jobs. These are uninsured workers in jobs that are key to Maine’s economy who now will have an opportunity to secure affordable coverage.”

Uninsured direct care, seasonal and part-time workers who work in large firms that provide health insurance will be able to enroll in January 2010 and receive vouchers to make that coverage affordable. With the Business Advisory Group, a special plan to meet the needs of other seasonal and part-time workers who are not offered health insurance at work will be developed next year.