Maine DHP May Shape National Debate

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Maine DHP May Shape National Debate

Wall Street Journal
June 15, 2003 6:41 p.m. EDT THE DAILY SCAN
By MARK INGEBRETSEN
Maine Universal Health Plan
May Shape National DebateMaine legislators overwhelmingly passed a universal health-care plan, Friday. Called Dirigo after the state's Latin motto meaning "I lead," the plan put the New England state squarely in the media spotlight. And it's prompted speculation over whether other states or the federal government might follow with equally sweeping health reform plans of their own.The Portland Press Herald called the bill "one of the nation's most ambitious attempts at health-care reform." The measure "promises affordable coverage to all Mainers within five years," the newspaper added.Despite initial opposition from some elements of the health-care and business communities, "In the 151-member [Maine] House, 105 members voted in favor. The Senate approved the measure 25-8," the Associated Press reported.The measure's passage came less than a month after a U.S. Supreme Court decision gave the green light to a controversial Maine program called Maine Rx aimed at lowering the cost of prescription drugs, according to an article appearing on this Web site.Funding for Dirigo would come from a variety of sources, "including a tax on insurance companies and $80 million the state expects to save each year by eliminating unreimbursed medical costs run up by uninsured people," the Associated Press reported.Part of the plan calls for "cost controls on hospitals and insurers, an expansion of the state's Medicaid program, subsidies for low-income people, and a promise "¦ that small business will be able to buy insurance at lower rates," the Boston Globe noted.Much of the credit for passing the law goes to Maine's Democratic Gov. John Baldacci, who worked through several compromises in order to achieve the lopsided vote. As the Boston Globe wrote: Mr. Baldacci "is about to do what Bill Clinton and former Massachusetts Gov. Michael S. Dukakis could not," namely put in place sweeping health-care reforms.No doubt, Dirigo will have repercussions well beyond that state's borders.Quoting health industry analysts, Reuters reported that "With health care shaping up to be a major issue in the 2004 presidential campaign, the Maine reforms may be a test case for similar overhauls nationwide." Moreover roughly 12 states are considering proposals for "universal health-care coverage or "¦ a single-payer system to cover the uninsured," the newswire noted
 
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ABOUT MARK INGEBRETSEN
Mark Ingebretsen is an author and free-lance writer who has written on business, finance and health issues for the past twenty years. His articles have appeared in Esquire, Sports Illustrated, Chicago, TheStreet.com, Online Investor, and Better Homes & Gardens, where he served as senior features editor. During his career, Mr. Ingebretsen has helped develop several business magazines, including The Best of Business, Topline and Overseas Business.
 
His most recent book, "Nasdaq: A History of the Market that Changed the World," is available from Prima Publishing. He also wrote "The Guts and Glory of Day Trading" (Prima Publishing, 2001). His newest book, "Why Companies Fail," will be published in May 2003.
 
Mr. Ingebretsen received his B.J. from the University of Missouri School of Journalism and attended the University of Iowa Graduate Writers Workshop. He and his family live in Des Moines.