Govt. Janet Mills has nominated Meg Garratt-Reed to be executive director of the new Office of Affordable Health Care.
Garratt-Reed is currently director of the Office of the Health Insurance Marketplace at the Maine Department of Health and Human Services. Garratt-Reed must be confirmed by the Maine Senate before starting her new role.
The new office to be launched this year will “analyze drivers of health care costs and propose solutions to help Maine people. The office will study health data and identify policy recommendations to improve health care affordability, quality, access and equity for individuals and families, employers, other health care payers, and state government,” according to a Mills administration news release.
The office will have a total of three employees – including Garratt-Reed – and a budget of $403,000.
While the US government has expanded insurance access since the 1990s by passing the Children’s Health Insurance Program, the Affordable Care Act and Medicaid expansion, less has been done to address the rising costs of health care. In fact, health care costs have increased dramatically since the 1970s.
Health care costs have increased from $1,875 per person – adjusted for inflation – in 1970 to $12,531 per capita in 2020, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation, a health care think tank.
It’s not clear whether a small state like Maine, on its own, would be able to enact reforms that would have enough influence on the nation’s vast health care industry to effect costs, but it would be a monumental challenge, health experts have said.
Garratt-Reed, in her current role at the Office of the Health Insurance Marketplace, was “instrumental in launching CoverME.gov. ”according to the news release. The website is where Mainers purchase ACA marketplace insurance, replacing www.healthcare.gov, the federal website.
“Maine has seen the largest decline in its uninsured rate of any state in the nation in recent years. With Meg at the helm of this independent, nonpartisan organization, I believe we can continue to make headway in expanding lifesaving insurance to more people and improving health care affordability,” said Mills in a written statement.
Maine’s uninsured rate declined from 8% in 2019 to 5.7% in 2021, largely due to Medicaid expansion, which Mills implemented.
“I’m honored by this nomination and the opportunity to build on Maine’s nation-leading expansion of coverage to help ensure all Maine people can afford the health care they need,” Garratt-Reed said in a statement.
Garratt-Reed’s nomination will be reviewed by the Legislatures’ Health Coverage, Insurance and Financial Services Committee and is subject to confirmation by the Maine Senate. If approved, Garratt-Reed would be appointed to a five-year term.
The agency was created by legislation sponsored by Senate President Troy Jackson, and will be advised by a 13-member council.
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