The Charlie Brown of Health Insurance

Poor Charlie Brown. Problems with the  kite eating tree. Lucy always pulls the football away just as he is about to kick it. A dog that is more popular than him.

Maine is the Charlie Brown of health care. The state’s legislators have tried for decades to fix its system, but their efforts have always fallen short: health insurance premiums are still among the least affordable in the nation, health care spending per person is among the highest and hospital emergency rooms are among the most crowded. Indeed, many overhauls to the system have done little more than squeeze a balloon — solving one problem while worsening another.

Sound familiar?

Like the great health care debate in Washington.

But like the Peanuts character, the state keeps trying. Indeed, Senator Olympia J. Snowe, Maine’s senior United States senator and so far one of only two Republicans in Congress to vote for an overhaul, spent two years in the late 1970s as chairwoman of the State Legislature’s joint Health and Human Services Committee pushing small reform efforts. “That’s where I garnered an enormous deference to the issue of health care and its complexities,” Ms. Snowe said in an interview.

Based on what I have read Ms. Snowe in Washington it seems like she hasn’t learned that much over the last 30 years. If she can’t fix health care for Mainiacs then how can she expect to fix it for a nation of 330 million?

To conservatives, Maine proves that government efforts to strictly regulate the nation’s health insurance market are doomed. Many of the reform proposals circulating on Capitol Hill have already been tried in Maine.

“These reforms are very well-intentioned, but in reality they have yet to produce the promised results or even be financially sustainable,” said Tarren R. Bragdon, chief executive of the Maine Heritage Policy Center, a conservative research organization in Portland.

And nothing in the House or Senate version will do anything to control the cost of health care either.

To others, Maine’s failures show why some reforms can be tackled only on a national level. Maine has the nation’s oldest population, its poor are among the sickest, and its median income ranks low.

That sounds like the Medicare population. Another government albatross that is a financial Titanic.

Every time the government tries to fix things it only get’s worse and costs more than it did before. Why is that so difficult to follow?

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