New York Times Reports on Failure of the Public Option

Kevin Glass
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Posted: Nov 11, 2009 3:24 PM
...in Maine.

Conservatives have long been pointing to the two states that the Left has held up as models for health care reform - Massachussetts and Maine - as a cautionary tale for the rest of the nation. To many people's surprise, even the New York Times today picked up on this.

Maine’s history is a cautionary tale for national health reform. The state could never figure out how to slow the spiraling increase in medical costs, hobbling its efforts to offer more people insurance coverage.

A state-sponsored insurance plan has been capped at fewer than 9,000 [enrollees] because of financing problems.

The story quotes Tarren Bragdon, CEO of the Maine Heritage Policy Center. Tarren wrote about Maine's public option insurance system, Dirigo, in Townhall back in July.

Dirigo passed in 2003 with bipartisan support, based on promises made by the governor and other supporters of this big government overhaul. At that time, legislators and the public were assured the taxpayer-funded government-run plan would cover all 128,000 uninsured Mainers by 2009. Taxpayers were also promised that Dirigo would pay for itself by through savings government would create within Maine’s health care system and that funding for the program would never require new taxes or tax increases. Sound familiar? [# More #]

Today, the year in which every uninsured Mainer was to be covered by this public-option plan, just 9,600 people are enrolled in DirigoChoice. Only 3,400 of those were previously uninsured at enrollment—a scant three percent of the total number of Mainers without health coverage. The remaining 6,200 Dirigo enrollees have moved from private health care coverage to the taxpayer-funded government plan. This high level crowd-out for Dirigo mirrors national figures for Medicaid and SCHIP.

To achieve these pathetic outcomes, Dirigo has cost state taxpayers $155 million over the past four years - a lot of money for a state with 1.3 million people.