I have to disagree with Les Fossel in his March 11 column, “Maine Voices: We’ve tried everything else – it’s time for universal health care.” Fossel says he has “seen solution after solution attempted – but none has worked.”
It’s true that Maine has been the subject of many health insurance experiments. In the 1990s, Mainers were introduced to community rating, which forced younger, healthier people to pay more in order to subsidize older, sicker people. Combined with the guaranteed-issue law (which requires applicants to be covered, regardless of their medical history), this pushed Maine’s insurance industry into its death spiral.
Another experiment, Dirigo Health, failed to meet its goals and burned through hundreds of millions of dollars.
We expanded our Medicaid program in 2002, which drained our state budget and even put the state into debt.
Maine implemented the certificate of need law, which hindered new health care providers from opening up shop in Maine and stifled competition.
This and many other health care experiments and so-called “consumer protections” created one of the most overregulated, overmandated and ultimately expensive heath insurance markets in the country.
Finally, in 2011, a different approach was taken. It was a market-driven approach that allowed for more competition between providers, more competition between insurers and more choice for consumers. It was call Public Law 90 – and it worked. From its implementation in 2011 until the advent of the Affordable Care Act, rates in Maine stabilized for the first time in decades, deductibles dropped and more people entered the private insurance market.
Sadly, the most destructive health experiment of all, Obamacare, became the law of the land and PL 90 was overridden.
The free-market solution was working in Maine but was not allowed to succeed. Before we throw our hands up and destroy what is left of the best health care system in the world, let’s look at what really did work.