Why Is Leftist Joe Ditre Driving Baldacci's Dirigo Health Pl

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Why Is Leftist Joe Ditre Driving Baldacci's Dirigo Health Pl

Since the waiting room fee disclosure charts are going to be be written at the 6th grade reading level, will all of those reports be written at that level as well?? :D

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Why Is Leftist Joe Ditre Driving Baldacci's Dirigo Health Pl

Lewiston Sun Journal
6/10/03Consumer advocate supports work on Dirigo plan
By Bonnie Washuk
Staff Writer Even though Dirigo Health was amended again and again to appease critics, the administration did not gut the bill, a consumer spokesman said Tuesday.If Gov. John Baldacci’s plan to provide access to universal health care is passed by the House and Senate and then executed as written, consumers will see some relief from high health costs, predicted Joe Ditre of Consumers for Affordable Health Care.The day after Dirigo was unanimously approved by a legislative committee, Ditre said he is “ecstatic” and called the plan historic. “Relative to other states, we are miles ahead.”Like several others, Ditre monitored the bill as it changed during the administration’s negotiations with hospitals, doctors, insurers, the Maine State Chamber of Commerce and labor unions. Each time a negotiation was held, the bill was tweaked. The amendments grew.In the end, Dirigo maintained its original goals of expanding access, maintaining quality and bringing down costs, Ditre and others said.A representative of Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield, which supports the amended plan, said every party brought to the table its own concerns. “But the compromises made the bill stronger,” said Bill Cohen. “The answer was not in tearing the market apart, but improving it.”What will help Maine control costs, he said, is getting more people insured so their bills get paid and costs are not shifted, and limiting major expansions and capital investments by doctors and hospitals. Dirigo has language to do both, Cohen said.Steven Michaud of the Maine Hospital Association said hospitals “can live” with the amended Dirigo. He called it “a substantially improved bill, not a gutted bill.”There are nine different cost-containment mechanisms in the bill for hospitals, and that’s not considering cost-containment provisions for insurers, he said. Doctors, hospitals and insurers are being asked to voluntarily cap costs to 3 percent.“The more we look at it, hospitals are looking at significant cutbacks to meet these targets,” Michaud said. That will mean slowed increases in hospital salaries, a slowing down, delay or even elimination of hospital renovations or expansions.Some hospitals will cut back on services and staffing, “but not to an extent that shouldn’t be done,” Michaud said.Specifically, Ditre cited several cost-containment measures that survived negotiations. One limits the Certificate of Need (CON) process, which is required for major hospital expansions.A CON one-year moratorium began last month. It will be followed by a limit on future capital investments.The idea is to approve major hospital expansions based on need in that specific area of the state.That yet-undetermined cap “will be a big deal,” Michaud said, adding that some hospitals won’t be able to do what they want.Limiting health care capital investment according to a statewide plan has never been done before, Ditre said. In recent years, among the greatest spending increases have been capital investments. Higher spending is paid for by “people who pay for health care.” The costs are part of the hospital bills, he said. Some expansions have duplicated existing services, which increased costs, Ditre said.Another measure, for the first time, makes rate hike requests by insurance companies for small businesses subject to public hearing and state review. A hearing can only be avoided if the insurer proves that at least 78 percent of its costs are going back to customers in coverage. That means their operating expenses cannot be more than 22 percent.“We think that 78 percent is low, but this review is important,” Ditre said. “They’ve got to open up their books and show why they need an increase.” Furthermore, rate increases for larger businesses will now need a limited state review.Also included will be a State Health Plan, with annual reports, to measure how Maine is doing in expanding access, maintaining quality and controlling growth and costs.“That’s pretty strong,” Ditre said. While much was made of the hospital global budget that was taken out of the bill, “you get every bit and more” through the plan, he said.With the state releasing annual reports showing how much is being spent and where, the public will gain a greater awareness of what could be done to reduce costs, Ditre said.The bill is expected to be taken up in the House Wednesday or Thursday.
bwashuk@sunjournal.com [url=http://www.sunjournal.com/story.asp?slg=061103drig]http://www.sunjournal...

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