“Our business chose DirigoChoice because it works for us,” said Joan Donahue, owner of Hummingbird Home Care, at a recent press conference and rally in Augusta. “Good coverage at a price my workers can afford. I am appalled at the way people who already have the security of a health insurance plan (or carry a political agenda) can tell people who don’t that Dirigo has failed.”

Maine created DirigoChoice because health care is a human right. People who work hard should not have to go without healthcare, and our community has a moral obligation to ensure that the least fortunate among us have basic healthcare as well. Investing in access to healthcare also makes our workforce healthier and lowers costs for business.

I’ve heard from real people that DirigoChoice is working well in realizing these values. That may be precisely why it is drawing heat from hired lobbyists and big money. You know you’re on the right track when “they” send in the big guns!

Jacquie Murphy, who lives in Westbrook, is an example of this program’s importance for many people. She says: “DirigoChoice has been a life saving program for me.” Like many others, Jacquie stayed in an abusive marriage way too long. She couldn’t imagine getting along financially on her own, “primarily due to the high cost of medical care and my financial inability to get health insurance on my own.”

Many others find themselves suddenly without health insurance when they lose their job. In other cases, business owners stop paying for it because the cost is prohibitive. The right-wing proposal – a high deductible policy coupled with a Health Savings Account – is not a good solution for people struggling to make ends meet. The self-pay premiums for a qualifying high-deductible plan are not much less. Besides, how many regular folk could come up with the deductible amount all at once to put into a Health Savings Account? Take it from me, that nice little tax feature (H.S.A.) only “helps” the people who have plenty of money to dump in tax-free accounts!

If you’ve always had employment-provided health insurance, you may find it hard to understand the dilemma. You can get a reality fix by going to www.anthem.com and getting a rate quote for an individual plan. Check out what a family of four must pay for decent coverage. You may be shocked. I was! I have friends in Windham with one child and they are paying over $1,200 per month with a high deductible. That’s just not workable! Dirigo Health is a serious attempt to provide a fair solution to this dilemma.

Dirigo Health has made it possible for small business owners to once again provide a health insurance program for more of their employees! And now the program is open to enrolling individuals who are presently uninsured, too. In fact, there are already quite a few people enrolled in our area: Windham has 93, Standish 39, Raymond 31, Sebago 15, Casco 25, and Naples 11. See if you can find some of these people and ask what it means to them to have health coverage that they can afford.

Dirigo is working for our community, and the savings will only increase. Check it out at www.dirigohealth.maine.gov and learn about the $43.7 million in savings already realized.

Sure, it will need tweaking to undo flaws placed in the original proposal by the powerful players who were at the table and pulling strings. But I just love the way our independent-thinking Mainers see a problem and come up with a creative solution!

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