Since 2005, the Dirigo Choice health care program in Maine has served over 29,000 members. That’s nearly the entire population of Franklin County. Now, some opponents of the program say this is a tiny and ineffective program that should be eliminated. However, what they don’t want you to hear are the stories of the small companies and individuals whose only choice is Dirigo.
I’ve met owners of small companies that use the Dirigo program. I’ve heard from the employees from other businesses who are members of the Dirigo program. For these people, this program works. Without it, they would be in the ranks of the many working but uninsured folks in Maine.
Yes, the program has trouble attracting members. Yes, the cost can be a hurdle for many who still can’t afford it. Yes, the annual re-application process can be a mind-numbing blizzard of paperwork. I know because I too was without health insurance when I re-established my patent practice here in Maine and my wife had not yet found a job.
I considered Dirigo, but the application process was so horribly complicated that we instead went with a short term solution that had an outrageously high deductible of $10,000 in order to keep the premiums to a “low” amount of over $500. We considered it short-term catastrophic insurance, but were grateful when my wife found a position teaching which offered benefits.
So Dirigo has some issues, but does this mean we should waste all the federal money that jump-started the program because we didn’t quite get it right? Absolutely not! That would be like junking your car because the headlights burned out. In my patent business and the world of inventions, light bulbs represent a good idea. Dirigo needs some new light, not a dim bulb.
We can’t say “no” to the hard working families in Maine who currently use Dirigo. What we should be doing is trying to fix Dirigo. If the cost is too high, then let’s look at offering a less-costly version to meet people’s basic needs. If the complicated application process prevents folks who need it from even applying, then let’s simplify that process. If re-applying annually just doesn’t make sense, then let’s make it good for a few years.
Simply saying “no” to Mainers that need insurance is definitely not the answer.
Dennis R. Haszko
Candidate for Democratic Nomination, District 89