Maine Health Officials Investigate Using New Hampshire’s Medical Assistance Program
During Maine's Rural Health Association annual meeting on Nov. 15, Director Sharon Swanson told association members how their state could duplicate her program called Healthlink, which provides medical, dental and prescription drug assistance for New Hampshire's uninsured and underinsured, the Bangor Daily News reports. Healthlink, which has received "national accolades," began at a time when 11% of New Hampshire's population was uninsured. When the program started, more than 100 physicians associated with the 90-bed hospital LRG Healthcare agreed to provide free care to patients, and 15 area pharmacies, three major hospitals, seven ambulances, counselors, massage therapists and other care providers signed on to participate as well. Healthlink also enrolled Blue Cross and Blue Shield of New Hampshire, now called Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield, to provide claims adjudication and identification cards, print some marketing information and help with data downloading. In addition, Compusense of Nashua agreed to assist with enrollment, case management and other information systems. To participate in the program, individuals must provide "detailed financial information." Applicants found to qualify for Medicaid or other public assistance receive Healthlink's help in enrolling in the appropriate program. However, applicants that fail to meet qualifications for other public coverage may enroll in Healthlink, provided they agree to call primary care physicians before going to the emergency room and adhere to the care plan their primary care provider or case manager prepares. Healthlink members receive prescription drug assistance up to $2,500 per year and contribute a $3 co-payment for generic drugs and a $5 co-pay for brand-name drugs. The $750,000-per-year program services 2,971 customers and has helped 3,100 families enroll in Medicaid and 221 veterans receive veterans' benefits. Since the program began, New Hampshire's emergency room admissions have dropped by 76%, the health of patients in the program has improved and those who receive regular care have a smaller number of hospital and doctor visits, the Daily News reports. Given the program's success in New Hampshire, Swanson has been working with Maine Health, which is striving to close insurance gaps in Cumberland, Kennebec and Lincoln counties in Maine (O'Moore, Bangor Daily News, 11/16).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.