AUGUSTA, Maine — After signing a bill that uses a new funding mechanism for his prized Dirigo program, Gov. John Baldacci praised the Legislature on Wednesday for enacting that and several other laws he said will go a long way toward improving health care for Mainers.
“Taken together, these bills will help advance the broad goals of the original Dirigo reforms to make quality, affordable health care available to all Mainers and to work to make Maine the healthiest state in the nation,” Baldacci said at a news conference after signing several of the bills.
Among them is one that replaces the funding mechanism for the subsidized health care program Dirigo, which Baldacci has championed since its start in 2003.
The new law replaces the savings offset payment, now assessed at a variable rate of up to 4 percent of paid claims, with a fixed 2.14 percent payment on claims paid monthly. The new fixed rates will replace fluctuating savings offset payments, which drew court challenges by the health insurance industry.
By stabilizing the funding stream for Dirigo, the state will avoid costly litigation and open the door to more people who need health coverage, said Joseph Ditre, executive director of the advocacy group Consumers for Affordable Health Care.
Other newly enacted bills establish medical school scholarships for Maine students, enhance telemedicine services and improve health care transparency. They also expand health coverage for temporarily laid-off workers of small firms, take steps toward a universal wellness program and take steps to screen patients at Maine hospitals for infections that pose a risk to other patients.
A bill still facing final votes would establish a Maine Health Care Bill of Rights, which would require that insurers give people more information about their health care plans before they face unexpected medical bills.