June 26, 2013

Critics: Maine health deal hurts patients

A state agency will soon decide whether letting Anthem and MaineHealth be Obamacare partners is a good idea.

By Jessica Hall jhall@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

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click image to enlarge

In this September 2012 file photo, a patient is wheeled out of Barbara Bush Children's Hospital at Maine Medical Center in Portland. A state agency will soon decide whether letting Anthem and MaineHealth be Obamacare partners is a good idea.

Gregory Rec / Staff Photographer

"Hundreds of patients in the community will be affected," Kroger said.

Despite the claims that patients in central and western Maine would be left without access to care, some providers in the proposed Anthem-MaineHealth network are in central Maine, such as St. Mary's Regional Medical Center in Lewiston.

Having just two health plans on the exchanges in Maine is appropriate for a state with only 1.3 million people spread across a wide territory, said Riley, the senior fellow with the Muskie school.

"We have to think about what we had before. There were limited options before -- some with very limited coverage with high deductibles. The (Affordable Care Act) is an improvement in that it provides standard, good, comprehensive care. It provides subsidies for certain income levels," she said.

"Two networks is competition," said Riley, who was director of the Governor's Office of Health Policy and Finance under Gov. John Baldacci.

Each plan on the exchange will offer a variety of products, so there will be choices for consumers and small businesses.

"It's difficult to say there's only two plans when really there's multiple plans in each," Riley said.

Maine may not be the most attractive market to insurers because there's a small number of patients and more than three dozen hospitals to negotiate with, she said.

Central Maine HealthCare and MaineHealth have butted heads in the past over business developments.

In the late 1990s, Maine Medical Center objected to Central Maine Medical Center's efforts to start an emergency medical helicopter service. Not long after, Maine Med balked at Central Maine Medical Center's plan to build a cardiac center.

State regulators overrode those objections and Central Maine Medical Center proceeded with those efforts.

MaineHealth's McGinty said assertions about conflicts between Central Maine HealthCare and MaineHealth are "nonsensical."

"The fact that we decided to join with Anthem in creating this network has nothing to do with the fact that CMHC developed LifeFlight," an emergency helicopter service, he said.

Jessica Hall can be contacted at 791-6316 or at:

jhall@pressherald.com 

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