April/MayDuring Maine Governor John E. Baldacci’s weekly radio address, he announced that new measures will be taken to improve health care for the people of Maine.

“I am proud that four years ago we enacted the Dirigo Comprehensive Health Reforms, and much has been accomplished. The rate of the people who lack health insurance in our state has been better than the national average. But we must do more. Yes, we have helped small businesses provide insurance to their employees, we’ve given individuals a place to turn when the insurance market failed them, and in some cases we’ve saved lives … But now is the time to take the next step and learn from these experiences,” said Baldacci.

The governor said that Dirigo is projected to grow moderately, and the goal is for it to provide universal coverage.

He put his full support behind Rep. Jill Conover’s bill that “will create the opportunity for Dirigo’s foundation to expand and give the program the ability to increase competition while lowering costs,” said Baldacci.

“We’ve built on the state’s MaineCare program to reach out to more individuals, parents and children … And as part of my budget, we’ve already proposed bringing the amount we pay for services more in line with other states, and also introduced changes that will create better financial oversight and control,” stated the governor, who then explained there will be additional changes. “To increase the available and affordable choices and maintain protections for those who buy insurance, we’re going to change the regulations in the individual and small group market.”

There are thousands of people who actually buy insurance, but because their premium is so high, if they become sick, unless it’s critical, their insurance is useless.

“As the line goes, ‘the only thing worse than no health insurance is paying for no health insurance’,” said the governor. “We’re going to refocus Dirigo on enrolling the uninsured and the underinsured, and reduce costs for businesses to participate.”

“Since day one, health-care reform has had its enemies and challenges. They think government has no role in protecting people’s health. Health-care security is about real people, with real lives and real families. They work hard, they play by the rules, yet somehow, before Dirigo, there was no room for many of them in the system … I will not turn my back on them.”

DirigoChoice has helped more than 24,000 people since its inception.

The major changes proposed are:

—Baldacci’s new Dirigo Health 2.0 plan allows the program to self-administer through LD431, Conover’s bill.

—The program has a reinsurance plan

—Requires discounts for nonsmokers

—Worksite wellness programs

—New rate regulations will be put in place.

—Once these steps have been implemented and Dirigo has proven to be more affordable, a play-or-pay system will mandate coverage for employers and individuals who can afford the program. (Those making $39,000 or more)