AUGUSTA (AP) – The board of Maine’s Dirigo program says the state-backed health insurance system has provided nearly $150 million in health care savings through avoided costs in the last year.

The board voted Thursday to forward that figure to the state Insurance Bureau for a review and hearing, which could be completed in a few months.

So-called “savings offset payments, which target insurers, have been a critical funding source for Dirigo Health, Maine’s five-year-old effort to expand health coverage. Those payments have triggered regulatory battles and court fights.

Dirigo supporters hoped to avoid reliance on savings offsets through new taxes on soda, beer, wine and surcharges on paid insurance claims. But with those new taxes facing a likely challenge in November, Dirigo’s board was forced to calculate savings offset payments once again.

AP-ES-07-24-08 1614EDT

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