In Maine, ObamaCare's New High Risk Pool Attracts Just 14 Enrollees


Because ObamaCare's primary insurance reforms don't kick in until 2014, the law's authors included a bridge program designed to provide immediate coverage to those with preexisting conditions. The state-based high-risk pools created by the law have been up and running for almost a year now, but enrollment is woefully low. In Maine, for example, just 14 people have signed up for the new plans, according to the Bangor Daily News:

The rain in Maine falls mainly on the plain.

Barely a dozen Mainers have signed up for an insurance plan that covers pre-existing conditions, which has been available in the state for nearly a year.

The Portland Press Herald says only 14 people have subscribed to the plan, which was created by the national Affordable Care Act and is administered in Maine by Dirigo Health.

The federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which oversees the plan, is trying to get the word out that the coverage is available. But interest by subscribers has fallen short in Maine as well as the rest of the country.

This isn't the first time Maine has seen a government-run health insurance program struggle to maintain enrollment levels. In 2003, the state created Dirigo Care, a state-run health program that backers promised would cover each and every one of the state's 128,000 uninsured by 2009, and all without raising taxes. The program was given a one-time $53 million grant to get things started, but was sold on a promise of eventual self-sufficiency. Instead, the program resulted in a dual failure, costing far more than initial projections while failing to cover more than a small percentage of the state's uninsured.

Things people in Maine actually buy.

In 2009, the year in which the program was to have successfully covered all of the uninsured, the uninsured rate still hovered around 10 percent—effectively unchanged from when the program began. At the highest point, only about 15,000 individuals were ever covered by the plan. Taxpayers and insurers, however, had picked up an additional $155 million in unexpected costs—all while the state was wading deeper into massive budget shortfalls and increased debt. Without sufficient enrollment, premium prices rose higher and higher, which, in turn, made it harder to sustain enrollment. The program has not been shut down, but because expected cost-savings did not materialize, it's been all but abandoned. In September 2009, just 9,600 individuals still recieved coverage through the program, less than 3,500 of whom were previously insured, according to the Maine Heritage Policy Center's Tarron Bragdon.

The story of Dirigo Care seems remarkably similar to what's playing out with the high-risk pools, and not just in Maine. According to The Washington Post, New Hampshire only managed to enroll about 80 members by December of last year. At the same time, however, the state managed to spend almost twice the $650,000 in federal money that had been set aside to fund the program. 

But it's nothing a little more taxpayer money can't fix. Or at least that's what the Department of Health and Human Services seems to think. The Obama administration's health agency has already declared that it will spend even more money to advertise the high-risk pool program and expand its benefits. 

NEXT: Obama's Koh-Dependent Defense of His Nonwar

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  1. This is sort of like how Obama’s magical housing bailout package has only been successfully[*] used by a few thousand homeowners whilst millions of Americans have lost their homes in foreclosure.

    [*] “Success” means “does not eventually lose their home despite modifying it under the various HOPE programmes”.

  2. I wonder why people aren’t signing up? There might be a correlation between not having it together enough to have health insurance and not having it together enough to take advantage of other resources available. Forget the libertarian angle for a minute–why aren’t more people taking advantage of the system?

    1. The eligibility for the plans is pretty complex. You have to prove that you weren’t eligible for certain classes of plans (like Medicare, Medicaid, or employer sponsored insurance), that you didn’t make any attempts to buy private plans, and that you’ve had an extended lapse in coverage.

      For all that trouble, you can get into a relatively expensive plan with lousy coverage. It’s usually a bad deal.

      1. you can get into a relatively expensive plan with lousy coverage


        Most uninsured are making a rational decision (whether smart or not is entirely different) to not have insurance.

  3. That general store sign is fucking awesome. That is all.

    1. “Hussey’s – Specializing in Shotgun Weddings for More Than Thirty Years!”

      1. “He went to Jared’s Hussey’s!”

    2. The sign is great, but cmon!! You do one story about Maine and you just have to have that in it!

      1. Trust me… there’s an abundance of signage in Maine that could have been used if not Hussey’s. Illiteracy is Maine’s second language, and it is proudly displayed on placards everywhere there. But I love it all the same.

    3. During my college days, I used to frequent a shop in Auburn, ME. They made the best Ruebens and sold a wide variety of firearms. I loved that place.

      1. A sandwich, a sidearm, and a quick drive over the Andy to Get Jolly at the Holly.

  4. So what’s the reason for this? It’s clearly not that people don’t know. Anyone that pays any attention knows about these things. Is it that the premiums are high? Benefits stingy? Not actually many people who can’t get private insurance? A little analysis would help Peter.

    1. Do you want to encourage people to get on the dole? Sure sounds like it.

  5. Occam’s Razor: poor white Mainers are racists, hoarding their diseases and maladies like the rich hoard their planes and what not. All to make Obama look bad! Teh racists are ruining his career!

    1. It’s finally starting to sink in, isn’t it, Jay?

      1. The eligibility for the plans is pretty complex. You have to prove that you weren’t eligible for certain classes of plans (like Medicare, Medicaid, or employer sponsored insurance), that you didn’t make any attempts to buy private plans, and that you’ve had an extended lapse in coverage.
        @ I paid $32.67 for a XBOX 360 and my mom got a 17 inch Toshiba laptop for $94.83 being delivered to
        our house tomorrow by FedEX. I will never again pay expensive retail prices at stores. I even sold a
        46 inch HDTV to my boss for $650 and it only cost me $52.78 to get. Here is the website we using to get
        all this stuff, BetaSell.com

  6. This is so fuckin’ funny.

    Of course, once Obamacare gets shove up Maine’s collective ass, it’ll come down to Men With Guns and Badges against those who refuse to be forced to buy a product or service.

  7. Fuck, I hope that ObamaCare gets repealed soon. The Republic won’t be able to take any more shit — it’ll die.

    1. It hasn’t already?

      1. There’s scraps left, in some places much more than others — but uniformity is catching up, and shit’s going to hit the fan in the next decare or so, I think, so stock up on ammunition

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