June 27, 2022

Board members named to charitable foundation

PORTLAND – Fifteen health care experts have been named to the board of directors of the new charitable foundation that resulted from the sale of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Maine.

The Maine Health Access Foundation will use $82 million from the sale of the nonprofit insurer to Anthem Insurance Companies of Indiana to find ways to meet the health care needs of Mainers who either lack health insurance or are underinsured.

Attorney General Andrew Ketterer appointed the foundation board Tuesday based on the recommendations of an advisory committee.

Several of the appointees said the foundation’s challenges will include providing health care to large numbers of low-income adults ignored by existing programs.

Some members said they hope to come up with bold, creative concepts to fulfill their mission, and they pledged to make the most of the foundation’s health care dollars.

Specific suggestions for improving access to health care ranged from more coverage for dental care and the needs of the disabled to finding ways to improve coverage for poor people who do not qualify for Medicaid.

“Of the many boards and commissions I’m on, I’d put it at the top of the list in terms of the potential here, because it’s new territory for Maine,” said Kevin Concannon, commissioner of the Maine Department of Human Resources. “We haven’t had anything like this, public or private.”

Concannon said he hopes the foundation will be able to address the “huge gaps” in access to dental care in the state. And he wants to see if the foundation can improve public health by targeting whole segments of the population in Maine, particularly those who are not already covered by some kind of public insurance.

Older Mainers have access to Medicare, he said, and just under 94 percent of children in the state now have access to health insurance. But there are many others who don’t.

“We have single adults who don’t have children” with no access, he said.

“We have people in their 50s who kind of have to wait that long wait until they turn 65 for Medicare. I’m just mindful of those populations.”

Mary Henderson, a board member who works for the Maine Equal Justice Project in Augusta, agreed, noting that there are some low-income Mainers who can’t qualify for the state’s Medicaid program no matter how low their incomes go.

“If you’re an adult that doesn’t have a minor child at home and you’re not disabled and you’re not elderly, you can have zero income and you’re not going to be eligible for Medicaid,” she said.

Steven Tremblay, president of Alpha One and member of the new board, said the foundation could help improve health care for the disabled, a group that has been losing benefits as Medicaid, Medicare and private insurers have tightened their coverage.

People who use high-tech wheelchairs can get basic coverage for a wheelchair, for example, but many of the high-tech items on the chair that help them remain independent are not covered.

In addition to Concannon, Henderson and Tremblay, board members include:

. Dr. Anne Brown of Community Clinical Services in Lewiston

. Carol Carothers of the National Alliance of the Mentally Ill of Maine, Augusta

. Wesley Davidson, executive director of the Aroostook Mental Health Center

. Laurie Eddy, director of health services for the Penquis Community Action Program in Bangor

. Lisa Faires of Palermo, a health educator for the Penobscot Nation

. Dr. Lani Graham of Portland, a health care consultant and former director of the Maine Bureau of Health

. Warren Kessler of Readfield, director of the MaineHealth Access Project

. Lisa Miller of Somerville, a health-care activist who has been president of the Maine Public Health Association

. Trish Riley, executive director of the National Academy for State Health Policy in Portland

. Charlene Rydell, a health-policy analyst and former state legislator from Brunswick

. Jane Saxl, a former state legislator from Bangor

. Christopher St. John, director of the Maine Center for Economic Policy

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