Maine Task Force Begins Work to Study State-Based Fixes to Healthcare System

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AUGUSTA, Maine (WABI) - A panel looking into state-based fixes to the healthcare system began its work in Augusta on Wednesday.

They discussed the scope of the work ahead of them as well as some common sense solutions to improve health care coverage in Maine.

The state's Task Force on Health Care Coverage for All of Maine was created by the legislature and includes lawmakers, as well as representatives from hospitals, the insurance industry and health care groups.

They aim to submit a final report at the start of the 129th legislative session with recommendations on how to reform the state's health care system.

"In light of the current environment where we'll see the re-emergence of short term policies, the elimination of the mandate, and that is coverage to what? What do we mean by coverage? Is it a comprehensive benefit? Is it primary care? Is it high deductible plans? I think the definition of 'coverage' becomes important to our work," said Trish Riley, Executive Director of the National Academy for State Health Policy.

Task force members brainstormed simple solutions to the big picture problem of rising health care costs and the lack of price transparency.

"If you try to go to your doctor's office or you try to go to a hospital and maybe you don't have insurance and you're trying to purchase healthcare. To try to find out what it costs ahead of time for the services that you're getting before you receive them can be near impossible in many circumstances," said Senator Eric Brakey, (R).

Senator Brownie Carson says his experience as an ambulance driver has brought him up close and personal with the reality of Mainers refusing treatment due to lack of coverage.

"I drive ambulance at night at Harpswell (Neck Fire & Rescue). We had a run on Sunday night and the guy said, 'unless it's life threatening, I can not go to the hospital.' The paramedic stood there from Midcoast saying 'I can't tell you that this is life threatening, but you should get this checked out.' And he said, 'I don't have the money to go to the hospital. I'm sorry.' So we went back to the ambulance. But that's really a backwards system," said Carson, (D).

As the panel continues to research and study solutions to improve health, add jobs, and preserve Maine's community hospitals, they'll also try to look at incentives for insurance providers to lower costs as well as the possibility of introducing price caps on expensive medical procedures, such as MRI's.