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Maine Wins $33M Federal Grant for Health Care Pilot Project
02/22/2013   Reported By: Keith Shortall

The federal government has awarded Maine up to $33 million to test a plan aimed at lowering health care costs, and improving the health of Maine residents. While Gov. Paul LePage has criticized the federal Affordable Care Act, and refused to expand Medicaid in Maine, the administration says this grant is in line with the governor's larger goals for improving the health care system in Maine. Keith Shortall reports.

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The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services chose Maine as one of six states to share more than $250 million in grant money handed out as part of the Affordable Care Act. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced the awards yesterday in a teleconference.

"States have long been innovators and leaders in promoting these kinds of improvements through their Medicaid programs," Sebelius said. "And the awards we're announcing today will give states the freedom they need to take these efforts to the next level by coordinating efforts with private payers."

The other five states that received the awards are Arkansas, Minnesota, Oregon, Vermont and Massachussetts, which Sebelius says will get $44 million to transform primary care practices into so-called "medical homes."

"And Maine will recieve up to $33 million to support the expansion of 'Accountable Care Organizations,' that tie payments to quality outcomes," Sebelius said.

The so-called the Maine Innovation Model, says state Health and Human Services Commissioner Mary Mayhew, will strengthen efforts to align MaineCare, Medicare and commercial insurer payment systems, and could save Maine more than $1 billion over a three-year period.

"The approach that Maine is focused on is to move away from a payment system that is based on the volume of services that are delivered, to one that is based on rewarding quality care, for improved outcomes," Mayhew says - and on holding providers accountable for improving the health of the people of Maine.

While the LePage adminstration has made clear its opposition to major requirements of the federal Affordable Care Act, and has declined to expand Medicaid under the law, Mayhew says the grants announced on Thursday encourage innovation, and lower costs, all of which she says the governor wholly supports.

"We absolutely believe that this grant will allow us to move in that direction, and is aligned with the governor's principles to support greater transparency in the system and greater accountability in the system," she says.

The state's primary partner in implementing the grant over the next three-and-a-half years is the Maine Health Management Coalition, which is made up of more than 60 public and private employers, hospitals, health plans, and doctors.


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