Maine Med ‘parent’ offers proposal
By JOSHUA L. WEINSTEIN, Blethen Maine Newspapers
Copyright © 2002 Blethen Maine Newspapers Inc.
December 11, 2002
PORTLAND — The state’s largest health-care provider offered a plan Tuesday to solve Maine’s health-care crisis. The proposal requires the cooperation of health-care organizations and professionals, the federal government, state government, insurance companies, employers and individuals.
MaineHealth — the parent company of Maine Medical Center, Spring Harbor Hospital, Community Health Services and other heath providers — says a coalition that includes unions, businesses and other organizations has already pledged to cooperate.
The “Health Care Challenge” is the latest health-care reform plan released recently. Anthem, the state’s largest private health insurer, offered a study in November, Gov.-elect John Baldacci has a plan and the Legislature is studying a single-payer, or universal, health-care proposal. Just last year, voters in Portland supported the concept of a single-payer system.
“There have been other plans to solve the health-care cost crisis, some more inclusive and comprehensive than others,” said Bill Caron, president of MaineHealth, during a press conference at DoubleTree Hotel in Portland.
“The Health Care Challenge is different because it lays out what each interested party can and must do to achieve the goal of quality, affordable health care for everyone. It recognizes that everyone must bear some of the ‘pain’ of reform, and that everyone must step up to the plate.”
The proposal recommends that:
l Health-care organizations and professionals — including MaineHealth affiliates — increase prices by no more than 6 percent in 2003 and limit profits to 3 percent.
l The federal government increase Medicare payments.
l The state increase Medicaid payments for physicians’ services by 10 percent during 2004 and every year thereafter until they are commensurate with Medicare payments.
l Insurance companies hold profits to 3 percent or less.
l Employers continue sponsoring health-insurance coverage and individuals adopt healthy lifestyles.
Bill Cohen, a spokesman for Anthem, complimented MaineHealth for entering the debate, and said, “we agree with a great deal of the plan.”
However, he wondered about the plan’s call for limiting profits to 3 percent.
“We want to … understand why they are suggesting that number, and do they totally understand the impact of that suggestion?” he said. “We can’t just, in a sense, endorse it, because you’ve got to understand how do you work through those conflicts, but, to their credit, they’ve put it on paper, they’ve put it out there. Now all of us need to come to the table and talk about it.”
Joe Ditre, the executive director of Consumers for Affordable Health Care, called the proposal “retro.”
He said that “it’s good that they are at least coming to the table, and saying it’s a problem,” but that “they still are talking about an employer-based system, they’re still talking about increasing their rate, basically giving them more money and the federal government and state government giving them more money.”
“Why perpetuate a very failed system?” he asked.
Ditre said it is significant, though, that MaineHealth and Anthem are getting involved in a public policy discussion.
“It says to me that both providers and insurers … are very nervous about what’s going on in our health-care system, and see the writing on the wall. I take this as a pre-emptive strike. MaineHealth wants to be involved and basically is staking its claim.”
Carl Leinonen, executive director of the Maine State Employees Association, one of the organizations that endorsed the Maine Health Care Challenge, called it “just one piece of the whole puzzle,” and said his organization “sees this as complementing and adding to other initiatives. Our efforts can provide positive support for the incoming Baldacci administration as it develops its specific health care proposals.”
Kevin Gildart, the vice president for human resources at Bath Iron Works, who also spoke at the press conference, said “the new millennium has begun with clear indications that managed care is in transition and that new answers and innovations are needed in health care.”
He said the challenge “is a significant first step” to fixing the problem.