PORTLAND (AP) – The state supreme court on Thursday handed Gov. John Baldacci a victory on one of the most contentious elements of his Dirigo health initiative.

In a 5-1 ruling, the court sided with the Baldacci administration on assessments made to insurers based on savings created by the Dirigo program. Insurance Superintendent Alessandro Iuppa found that Dirigo produced $44 million in savings in the first year.

The Maine Association of Health Plans and two other groups that say the figure should be much smaller told the supreme court that the Dirigo panel included categories of savings not envisioned by state lawmakers.

But the state, in urging the justices to uphold a lower court ruling in its favor, argued that the Dirigo Board and Iuppa had the expertise to interpret and apply the state law.

The Supreme Judicial Court agreed and gave deference to Iuppa’s “reasonable interpretation of an ambiguous statute,” according to the majority opinion written by Chief Justice Leigh Saufley.

There was one dissenter. Justice Donald Alexander said the insurance superintendent needed specific criteria for coming up with the disputed number.

Trish Riley, the governor’s top health adviser, said previously that the “aggregate measurable cost savings” concept that’s in dispute will likely be altered by the Legislature this session.

But that still leaves two years’ worth of figures in dispute.

AP-ES-05-31-07 1203EDT

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.