In a letter Nov. 18, state Sen. Lois Snowe-Mello made a pitch for Maine to adopt a high-risk insurance pool. She claimed that would save taxpayer dollars while extending insurance coverage to more people.

In reality, high-risk pools do exactly the opposite. And they undermine the practical principles of health insurance: to spread risks and costs equitably across a full spectrum, from the young and healthy to the elderly and not so healthy.

High risk pools single out and segregate individuals with health conditions (those whose needs are greatest); they do not benefit the insured, or the taxpayer, or expand coverage to the uninsured. Maine began a high-risk pool in the 1980s, which the Legislature axed in 1994 because of funding issues.

Experience in Maine and other states reveals that enrollees pay higher premiums, deductibles and out-of-pocket expenses. Because high-risk pools are no bargain, they don’t enroll enough individuals to be sustainable, and always require subsidies from general revenue sources (aka tax dollars).

Why pursue a program that has already failed in this state?

Maine people face not only serious health challenges (alarming increases in respiratory diseases, obesity and diabetes), but also severe financial burdens. Everyone will benefit from enhancing the overall health and well-being of all Maine citizens.

We cannot claim to lead the nation with independent thinking, nor champion doing the right thing, while penalizing the sick, poor and needy with impractical programs such as high-risk insurance pools.

Susann Pelletier, Lewiston

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