Maine’s Uninsured Rate Higher than Pre-Dirigo and Second Highest in New England


The U.S. Census Bureau last week released updated information on the number of uninsured people in Maine. Maine’s number of uninsured is now 21,000 higher than pre-Dirigo (2004) and the second highest in New England. In contrast, the number of uninsured in neighboring New Hampshire has dropped, despite the fact that New Hampshire’s Medicaid program is less than half as large as Maine’s.

The numbers speak for themselves. The promise of Maine’s public option experiment was to cover all of the state’s uninsured people by 2009 through Dirigo Health. Unfortunately, after spending more than $155 million in taxpayer funds and raising taxes on private health insurance to fund the Dirigo experiment, we now learn that Maine has more uninsured people than before Dirigo began.

The Dirigo policies are expensive with premiums skyrocketing 74 percent in four years, the benefits have been reduced, the program has been closed to new enrollees for two years, and the taxes to pay for this scheme actually make other health plans more expensive. How much worse does it have to get before Maine politicians can admit that this is not working and should not be duplicated by Congress with a federal government plan like Dirigo?

Two weeks ago, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius was in Maine to announce that millions of federal dollars will be spent to help prop up Maine’s Dirigo disaster. Here are several questions that she did not answer, but should have? Given the lack of success in trimming Maine’s uninsured population – how can Maine’s leadership possibly justify taking federal money, during a time of unprecendented federal deficits, to prop up Dirigo?

Latest US Census Bureau figures show Maine’s number of uninsured climbed by 22,000.

  • Maine now has 136,000 non-elderly uninsured, up 22,000 from last year and up from 115,000 in 2004, the first year before Dirigo was implemented (DirigoChoice began covering people on Jan 1, 2005).
  • New Hampshire, with an almost identical size population, actually experienced a drop in the number of uninsured, from 136,000 in 2007 to 131,000 in 2008, despite the fact that NH’s Medicaid program covers 97,000 people compared to Maine’s 223,000 for this same non-elderly population.
  • Maine (at 12.3%) has the second-highest percent uninsured of all the New England states – NH (11.5%), CT (11.4% ), VT (10.6%), MA (6.3%) and RI (13.4%) and the highest in northern New England.