The first universal health insurance program in the nation has been signed into law by Maine Gov. John Baldacci and is due to start in July 2004.
The law will establish Dirigo Health, a public-private health insurance program that will offer lower-cost health plans to self-employed individuals and small businesses, according to the Democratic governor's office of health policy and finance.
The office says the program will be voluntary and premiums will cost less than $300 per month for individuals. Employers will cover as much as 60% of the premium, with employees paying the remainder.
The plan would be paid for with new fees of up to 4% on insurers' gross revenues, more than $50 million in federal funds, premiums from employers and participants, and federal Medicaid funds, the office says. It also expects to save $80 million annually by eliminating unreimbursed care for the uninsured.
"We will help lower the spiraling costs of health care for everyone by creating a state health plan and a state health budget," Baldacci says in a release.
"As Maine people, we don't wait for our ship to come in from Washington or elsewhere," Baldacci adds. "We build our own ship, and so we have with Dirigo Health."