Maine to watch Massachusetts


Massachusetts is moving forward with its first-in-the-nation, nearly-universal health care.

And Maine officials are watching.

“I think we can learn from each other,” said Trish Riley, head of the Governor’s Office of Health Policy and Finance. “It’s cool. New England leads.”

Three years ago, Maine became one of the first states in the country to start a comprehensive health insurance program, DirigoChoice. The Maine program is designed to operate on a sliding subsidy scale and intended to make coverage more affordable for Mainers. With only 9,200 Mainers enrolled in the program, some people have questioned its success.

But Massachusetts officials considered Maine’s program when they were creating their own.

Like Maine, the Massachusetts program expands Medicare, subsidizes health plans for small businesses and provides some insurance on a sliding scale.

Unlike Maine, the Massachusetts program calls for nearly-universal health care, with penalties for people who can afford to buy their own health insurance but don’t and penalties for businesses that don’t provide insurance for their employees.

“I think it’s the second wave,” Riley said. “Maine was the first.”

Now, after Massachusetts learned from Maine, Maine officials vowed to learn from Massachusetts.

“Dirigo is a work in progress, Riley said.