Saying government has been unable to solve the problem of the uninsured, Maine's hospitals and health plans have kicked in millions of dollars to finance a new health program for low-income residents.
The CarePartners program, announced last week and effective immediately, will issue cards to enrollees, entitling them to visit participating physicians for a nominal fee, most likely $10 per visit. Participating physicians, hospitals and health insurers have agreed to donate $10 million in free care over the next three years.
"Government has not been able to solve the health insurance crisis, and the health insurance industry has not been able to solve it," CarePartners Director Warren Kessler said in a written statement. About 12% of Maine residents are uninsured; CarePartners targets low-income residents who cannot obtain health insurance and who don't qualify for government programs.
The program also has a "care management" component to provide preventive care, such as mammograms, and to coordinate community resources for follow-up care, said David Howes, M.D., president and chief medical officer of Martin's Point Health Care Centers, Portland, a network of four outpatient clinics. By preventing health problems and quickly treating those that emerge, CarePartners may "reduce the care-cost burden in the communities we're serving," Howes said.
In addition to Martin's Point, CarePartners includes 560-bed Maine Medical Center and 166-bed Mercy Hospital, both in Portland, and Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and HHS' Health Resources and Services Administration also contributed money to start the program.
Maine has been an incubator for innovative approaches to helping residents obtain healthcare. For example, the state stepped into the national spotlight last May with a controversial law aimed at controlling prescription-drug prices. That law created Maine Rx, a program that seeks rebates from manufacturers to reduce needy residents' prescription costs and would impose price controls if the rebates were not enough.
"Maine has done a lot of innovative things," said Steven Michaud, president of the Maine Hospital Association. "(CarePartners) is the private sector now responding where the public sector hasn't."