Document Type



This is Governor John Baldacci.

When we talk about health care in the United States, there are two different conversations going on.

There’s the debate that rages in the hall of the State House and on the editorial pages. It’s about numbers and actuaries and growth rates.

And then there’s conversation taking place around dinner tables, in line at the grocery store or on front porches in every corner of the state where people are fighting hard to hang on to health care for themselves and their families.

They can’t change jobs, they can’t start a new business or retire early because they’re worried about their health care and whether they’ll be able to pay for it and their medicines.

Meanwhile, fewer companies are offering health care coverage to their workers and most are trying to have their workers pay more than they are paying now.

And hardworking people just can’t afford to see the doctor or buy prescription medicine for their children.

That’s the real conversation about health care, and it’s the one I hear when I get away from the Augusta.

People come to me and tell me their stories. They tell me about strain that the uncertainty causes. And they ask for a real solution – not a thirty second political sound byte.

So that was why I was proud this week that the Maine Legislature took a bold step to a real solution for health care coverage, making it more affordable and to protect the coverage of 18,000 working families and small businesses who have coverage today, who can now be sure that they will be able to keep it.

The Legislature passed it and I signed it into law that strengthens the State’s DirigoChoice health insurance program.

It helps more than 700 small businesses, working families, afford health care coverage for themselves and their workers.

It isn’t welfare or a handout. These people are working and don’t qualify for a government program like Medicaid or any other types of programs. This is a program that helps people become more secure in their jobs and in their health.

The program has become unnecessarily controversial. Part of that had to do with the way it was paid for.

When we started the Dirigo Health Program, we relied upon funding from something called the Savings Offset Payment.

Basically, the program was funded by the savings it created in the health care system. And it worked. Dirigo saved millions in health care spending.

But the complicated formula was difficult to understand. It made an easy target for those who would leave working men and women on their own to fend for themselves.

This week we replaced it with something much simpler, and more straight-forward.

The Legislature came up with an assessment on the fees on soda, beer and wine.

I found that a reasonable approach and a path forward.

Now it wasn’t my first choice to use beer and wine to fund this program. I think tobacco taxes are good public policy. Cigarettes kill people, and we should be as aggressive as possible in discouraging smoking.

But the compromise was struck, a majority in the Legislature supported the approach, and it came down to a choice of being able to either keep 18,000 Mainers having affordable health care for them and their families, or not.

I signed the law, it was passed. The new tools are available.

Also, to reduce the insurance rates for individuals and to be able to promote aggressively small businesses and self-employed being part of this health care initiative.

And a new pilot program for young people, 30-and-younger, to be able to offer them more affordable health insurance products.

With this reform, more of them will be able to get coverage. That’s good for individuals, it’s good for all us and hopefully it will help to drive down the cost increases of premiums for everyone.

Among the professional thinkers and talkers and lobbyists, health care is not just another issue, it’s good for politics and it’s good for profits. They don’t like Dirigo, and they’re not shy about saying it.

But for working men and women and small businesses and self-employed, Dirigo is a lot more than a political argument.

It’s like Bill Keleher and his employee Rebecca Boulanger say about Dirigo. Bill’s a business owner – runs a company called Micro Technologies and Rebecca Boulanger works for him. She used to pay $7,000 a year to cover herself and her two children while she was at work. Now she pays about $4,500 a year. Bill Keleher, the business owner in Richmond, said that he found Dirigo to be a tremendous help to his company.

So, these are business people, these are working people, these are people who want to be able to provide for themselves and their families. And, you cannot have a healthy economy if you don’t have healthy people and people working worrying about their children and their health care coverage.

That’s what this Legislature passed and that’s what I signed into law this week. I look forward to talking with you on this matter as we move forward and begin to aggressively promote it amongst small businesses and the self-employed.

Thank you very much and have a great weekend.

Exact Creation Date






Files over 3MB may be slow to open. For best results, right-click and select "Save As"



Rights Statement

Rights Statement

No Copyright - United States. URI: http://rightsstatements.org/vocab/NoC-US/1.0/
The organization that has made the Item available believes that the Item is in the Public Domain under the laws of the United States, but a determination was not made as to its copyright status under the copyright laws of other countries. The Item may not be in the Public Domain under the laws of other countries. Please refer to the organization that has made the Item available for more information.