An old TV cartoon, “Pinky and the Brain,” always featured two mice and the following bit of dialogue:

“Gee, Brain, what do you want to do tonight?”

“The same thing we do every night, Pinky — try to take over the world!”

Every few years, the executives at MaineHealth, like The Brain, come up with a selfish and arrogant scheme to take over the health-care business in Maine.

This time they have combined with another high-handed operator, Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield, to ice out hospitals that have dared compete with MaineHealth.

Their plan would include 32 of 38 hospitals in Maine, including St. Mary’s Regional Medical Center.

The six outcasts share one trait — they compete head to head with the bully on the block. The list includes Parkview in Brunswick, Mercy in Portland, York, and the Central Maine Health hospitals — Bridgton, Rumford and Central Maine Medical Center here in Lewiston.

MaineHealth and Anthem secretly negotiated to create a health insurance policy for individual buyers and small businesses under the Affordable Health Care Act.

This exclusive product will, ironically, be partially funded with public money. Enrollment would start Oct. 1 and the coverage would begin Jan. 1, 2014.

CMMC proposed its own program to Anthem, the largest provider of individual policies in the Maine, but was offered no opportunity to negotiate and received no response.

The MaineHealth deal clearly wasn’t meant to encourage competition.

It certainly wasn’t based on cost. Bridgton and Rumford are the lowest-cost critical-care hospitals in Maine and CMMC is the least costly tertiary hospital.

And it clearly wasn’t based upon quality. CMMC regularly outscores Maine Med in safety and outcomes.

This seems more like an alliance formed by fat cats on a golf course than in a healthy, above-the-board manner.

This isn’t the first time Maine’s largest hospital system has sought to reduce or eliminate competition in the the state’s hospital market.

Sixteen years ago, the executives at Maine Medical tried to prevent Central Maine Medical Center from starting an emergency medical helicopter service.

Maine Med wanted to dominate the emergency medical business, even if it meant delaying by hours the intensive care received by critically sick and injured people.

State regulators wisely approved the idea and the service has been saving lives in rural Maine ever since.

Twelve years ago, Maine Med tried to deprive the people of Lewiston-Auburn and surrounding communities quick access to emergency cardiac procedures.

Maine Med wanted to dominate the cardiac business, even if it meant delaying by hours intensive procedures for people here.

Again, regulators rejected Maine Med’s attempts to kill that program and the heart center at CMMC has been saving lives for the last 10 years.

Now, state regulators are being asked to consider another attempt by Maine’s biggest hospital system to take market share away from smaller competitors, even if it means consumers must switch doctors or leave their hometown hospital for procedures.

The Maine Bureau of Insurance has always put the health care interests of the many ahead of the selfish financial interests of a few.

It should schedule hearings as quickly as possible on the MaineHealth/Anthem proposal. Those hearings will quickly show that restricting competition and making health care harder to obtain is not in the public’s best interest.

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The opinions expressed in this column reflect the views of the ownership and the editorial board.


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